Sunday, September 15, 2019

Can A Search Warrant For Blood in a DUI Be Challenged?

Ever since the US Supreme Court announced that forcibly withdrawing blood from a drunk driver is illegal, police all over the State of California have been obtaining search warrants to draw blood in driving under the influence cases.  What I have seen though is many officers are not putting enough information in the warrant affidavits to satisfy the legal requirements of probable cause.  To understand what I am talking about, let’s go into what the law requires for the issuance of a search warrant.

In order for a warrant authorizing a search to be valid the officer seeking it must convince a judge that “probable cause” exists to believe the place or persons to be searched contain evidence of a crime.  Probable cause is generally defined a a “fair probability” that evidence may be found to support a crime.  Probable cause must be established with facts, not conclusions.  What many officers are doing is providing conclusionary statements in the affidavit such as the person was displaying “symptoms of intoxication” instead of articulating the actual observations to let the judge decide.

A “bare bones” affidavit contains nothing more than conclusive statements which lack the facts and circumstances from which a judge can independently determine probable cause. Most affidavits in DUI cases are pre-printed, check the box type forms and therefore officers get lazy in articulating sufficient facts.

As a general rule, a warrant that is issued on insufficient probable cause is subject to a motion to quash.  However, the District Attorney will try to save the warrant by arguing the officer acted in good faith on the judicially authorized warrant and therefore the evidence should not be suppressed.

In response to that argument Counsel should argue that good faith doesn’t apply when the facts show that no reasonable officer would have believed probable cause existed.  This is where the attorney should get into his training and establish he is taught to articulate his or her’s basis to believe probable cause existed, though facts not conclusions.

Torrance DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff has over 25 years experience fighting and winning suppression motions in drunk driving cases throughout California, including Redondo Beach, Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and Manhattan Beach CA.