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Colorado Supreme Court upholds the Fourth Amendment requirement for a search warrant in DUI cases

The Colorado Supreme Court today issued a ruling that upheld the requirement that police need a search warrant to obtain blood from a DUI suspect where their consent has yet to be obtained.

In this case, the DUI suspect was involved in a motor vehicle accident just after 7:00 a.m.  Multiple police and EMS witnesses who came into contact with the suspect at the scene reported that he seemed sluggish and non-responsive but they were unable to detect any odor of alcohol on his breath and, as such, attributed his diminished level of consciousness to a possible head injury from the car accident.  The suspect was transported to the hospital at 7:36 a.m. where he was met by a third officer who testified that she smelled “a stale odor of alcohol” on the suspect’s breath and ordered a nurse to draw a blood sample without having consent from the suspect nor a search warrant.

The officers involved admitted that they were aware of a system between the Englewood Police Department, the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Arapahoe County Court to apply for an expedited search warrant but did not even attempt to utilize the system.  The prosecution argued that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the body created an exigent circumstance that relieved the police of the need to seek a warrant.

The Colorado Supreme Court stated that “the importance of requiring authorization by a ‘neutral and detached magistrate’ before allowing a law enforcement officer to ‘invade another’s body in search of evidence of guilt is indisputable and great.’”  Further, they ruled that the Fourth Amendment requires officers in drunk-driving investigations to obtain a warrant before drawing a blood sample when they can do so without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search.

All police agencies in the Denver area have similar access to expedited search warrant applications. 

If you have been contacted by law enforcement and accused of a DUI or other crime, please seek the counsel of Denver DUI attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.