Suppose a police officer asks someone suspected of a DUI in Los Angeles to consent to a test to measure the blood alcohol content in their body. If the blood test turns up evidence of drug usage—which the officer did not mention in his request for that blood test—can the state use those results to win a DUI conviction?
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently addressed a similar question in a ruling in a 2014 DWI case. According to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, police requested a warrant to draw Debra Fawcett’s blood after she ran a red light and caused a two-vehicle crash. Fawcett admitted to drinking a few beers earlier in the day.
The test results showed that Fawcett’s blood was alcohol free. However, they also revealed that she had THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and Alprazolam in her bloodstream. (Physicians often prescribe Alprazolam, better known by its trade name Xanax, for anxiety disorders.) Fawcett did have a valid prescription for the drug.
When police charged Fawcett with DWI, her attorneys asked the court to throw out the BAC evidence, since the officers hadn’t mentioned they were looking for drugs as well as alcohol when they asked for a warrant. The District Court agreed with to suppress the evidence, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not, so Fawcett’s lawyers took their case to the state’s Supreme Court.
In August, the Minnesota Supreme Court justices ruled that the warrant covered the search both for alcohol and for drugs. The majority decision said that since it was “apparent” to police officers that Fawcett was impaired, the judge issuing the warrant could infer that it could be from alcohol, drugs or a combination of them. Two of the justices dissented from the opinion, saying that the warrant should cover only what the officer specifically requested (i.e. testing for blood alcohol content).
As a frequent contributor to respected media, like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Good Morning America, Los Angeles DUI attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers understands what it takes to build successful defenses in complex DUI cases. Contact him and his team today to schedule a consultation.