Warrants Required For DWI Blood Samples

Warrants Required For DWI Blood Samples

The Texas Court of Appeals has announced new changes when it comes to the way law enforcement cracks down on drinking and driving. The changes came on November 26, 2014.

It will change the way officers obtain blood samples from possible DWI suspects. Now, under  no circumstances can an officer draw the blood of a suspect without a search warrant.

Before the ruling search warrants were recommended, however, there were many instances where officers did not have to exercise a warrant. For example, if an individual had prior convictions, if the individual was involved in a car accident where someone was injured, or died as a result, and for the no refusal weekends.

Now, even during those instances search warrants will be a requirement.

"It just strengthens the case and plus it's just a protection for not only the individual being arrested but it also helps to give the DA a stronger case," said Harold McClure with the Wichita Falls Police Department.

There are several different steps to obtaining a warrant for drawing blood. The Wichita Falls Police Department said first they have to evaluate the driver by conducting various field sobriety tests.

Once they determine that the person is showing a number of signs of intoxication, then paperwork requesting a warrant can filed. At that point a county judge has to sign it, before medical person personnel conduct the test.

But many question are raised when people consider the length of time it takes to obtain and exercise a search warrant.

"From start to finish you could probably get it done in an hour, to an hour and a half. And when I say start to finish I'm talking like the time from the traffic stop to the time the blood is drawn," said McClure.

The legal alcohol blood content level is .08. However, the alcohol content in your blood starts dissipating by .015- .02 per hour, according to the Wichita County District Attorney's Office.

The Wichita County District Attorney's office said the county has not seen any problem, when it comes to the speed and effectiveness of the warrant process.

"We take every step we can and getting a search warrant removes any types of errors that might occur, and it make sure every ones rights are protected," said McClure.

The Texas case that brought the changes to Texas was a 2012 Nueces County case. The man, David Villarreal refused all types of sobriety tests.

However, the man's history showed he had several previous DWI convictions. The officer used that information as an acceptable exception from having to obtain a warrant, instead he took the man's blood without approval or a warrant.

While at the time this was an acceptable procedure, in terms of Texas law, the victim fought the charge. In the ruling produced Wednesday, November 26, the judge ruled that taking the man's blood with out a warrant violated his constitutional rights. Villarreal's blood sample was thrown out and new rules were handed down.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6