May 31, 2008
When authorities have reason to believe that a drunken driver has caused a serious or fatal accident they have a right to draw the driver’s blood to test its alcohol content without their consent and without a search warrant, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The ruling was greeted with relief by law enforcers.
The high court reversed a ruling by a Dakota County district judge in the case of Janet Sue Shriner, 48, of Burnsville.
Charges of drunken driving and criminal vehicular homicide were dismissed against Shriner involving a 2006 accident in Burnsville because the lower court ruled that police should have at least tried to obtain a warrant before taking her blood without her consent.
In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court said that the “rapid, natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood creates … a circumstance [requiring immediate attention] that will justify police taking a warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw from a defendant” provided the officer has probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed criminal vehicular homicide or operation.
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