This last week a concerned citizen learned about “No Refusal” blood draw checkpoints and contacted me asking how can that be legal. In short, the answer is that this is a sentiment shared by many among the criminal defense bar.
In Tennessee, “[a]ny person who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of that person’s blood, a test or tests for the purpose of determining the drug content of the person’s blood, or both tests.” Tenn. Code Ann. 55-10-406(a)(1). This is often referred to as “implied consent.” Once upon a time, a citizen could refuse to allow blood to be removed from his or her own body to be used as evidence against him or herself, but not so much anymore.
In 2012, the implied consent law was modified to state that if a person refuses such a test, it is a violation of the implied consent law with possible punishments including (but not limited to) loss of your driver license and hefty fines. But currently the situation is entirely possible where you could get pulled over, asked to submit to a blood test, you refuse the blood test, and yet one is taken anyways (a “forced blood draw”).
Courts have ruled that seizure of your very body (a.k.a. your blood) can be legal in many scenarios. I imagine many readers may be screaming “but what about my right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures?!” It is true that the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that “under both the federal and state constitutions, a warrantless search or seizure is presumed unreasonable, and evidence discovered as a result thereof is subject to suppression unless the State demonstrates that the search or seizure was conducted pursuant to one of the narrowly defined exceptions to the warrant requirement,” State v. Binette, 33 S.W.3d 215, 218 (Tenn. 2000) (quoting State v. Yeargan, 958 S.W.2d 626, 629 (Tenn. 1997)).
However, that is speaking of warrantless searches and seizures, a.k.a. warrantless blood draws. Many policing agencies have set up a procedure where a warrant is obtained from an on-call magistrate authorizing the blood draw if a person refuses. However, even if a policing agency does not first obtain a warrant, if the particular circumstances of a situation are determined to be “exigent,” a forced blood draw may be constitutional. See State v. Hutchinson (Tenn. Crim. App. 2013) and Missouri v. McNeely (2012).
There you have it. Whether this author agrees with the justification, that is how forced blood draws are allowed in Tennessee. However, as readers may be able to tell even from this elementary run-down of the Tennessee Implied Consent law (and as readers may already know from other TNLawyerLee articles on DUIs, like this one or this one), these cases can be fraught with complexities – if you or someone you know should ever find yourself facing a charge for DUI or Violation of the Implied Consent Law, speak with a lawyer in your area immediately.
The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click herefor Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation. Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website,www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.
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