The US Supreme Court’s McNeely decision (view case) has made it much more difficult for police officers to forcibly draw blood from motorists without a warrant. Last week, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals became the latest to apply the precedent to discourage the practice statewide.
Defendants in these driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) cases are rarely sympathetic figures. Cases that reach the appellate level usually have prior convictions and were visibly intoxicated at the time of arrest, but the principles that allow officers to forcibly draw blood from repeat offenders also allows them to draw blood from innocent motorists.
In the case of James Dean Wells, he was a second offender who smashed his truck into a pole and then into the side of a building in Williamson County in the early hours of May 12, 2012. Wells left the scene of the accident, but Officer Cory Krueger tracked him down twenty minutes later. Wells refused to have his blood drawn, so it was taken by force at a nearby hospital.
The county has a magistrate on standby to prepare warrants 24 hours a day, but Officer Krueger made no attempt to obtain one. Prosecutors argued that no warrant was needed because there were “exigent circumstances” and the implied consent doctrine allowed it. The appellate judges rejected this reasoning.