Last updated on June 6, 2024

Warrantless Blood Tests for DUI/OWI in Michigan

Is it mandatory for police in Michigan to obtain a warrant before conducting a blood draw on a DUI/OWI suspect? According to Michigan law (MCL 257.625a), individuals under 21 can be charged with OWI based on any detectable alcohol level in their blood, breath, or urine, while those 21 and older must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Although breathalyzer tests are commonly used by Michigan police officers to determine a driver’s BAC, officers might also opt for a blood test.

Is a warrant necessary for law enforcement officers to compel a blood test from a driver? This issue was addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, which determined that in most cases of suspected drunk driving, warrantless blood draws are unlawful, whereas warrantless breath tests are lawful.

If you or someone you know is facing DUI/OWI charges in Oakland County, Michigan, it’s crucial to seek knowledgeable legal assistance. At Michigan Defense Law, our dedicated Oakland County DUI attorneys are well-versed in the complexities of Michigan’s DUI laws and can vigorously defend your rights. We understand the critical implications of warrantless blood tests and explore every avenue to challenge any evidence that may have been unlawfully obtained. Contact us today at (248) 451-2200 to schedule a consultation.

Understanding Warrantless Blood Draw Laws

When you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, in most situations a police officer is not allowed to require a blood draw to determine the driver’s BAC without a warrant. This would be known as a warrantless blood draw. According to the majority opinion in Birchfield v. North Dakota (2016), a warrantless blood draw is invasive enough that, without a warrant, it violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. An article in the ABA Journal reported on the case, noting that the Court came to its conclusion by a seven-to-one majority.

According to Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, warrantless blood tests are impermissible, but warrantless breath tests incident to arrest are allowed. Alito explained that the Fourth Amendment permits breath tests to be performed without a warrant because they do not infringe on a person’s privacy, while blood testing does. The Court then clarified that blood tests are different. As Alito writes, “blood tests are significantly more intrusive, and their reasonable must be judged in light of the availability of the less invasive alternative of a breath test.”

Warrantless Blood Test Law Aspects Description
Warrantless Blood Draw In most cases, police officers cannot require a blood draw without a warrant, violating the Fourth Amendment.
Majority Opinion in Birchfield v. North Dakota The majority opinion in this case determined that warrantless blood draws are invasive and unconstitutional without a warrant.
Justice Alito’s Opinion Justice Alito’s opinion highlights that warrantless breath tests are permissible as they are less invasive than blood tests, according to the Fourth Amendment.

What You Should Do if You Were Subjected to a Warrantless Blood Draw After Being Stopped for an OWI

If you were stopped on suspicion of an OWI and were required to submit to a warrantless blood draw to determine your BAC, do you have any recourse? Since the Birchfield decision, a number of state courts have further interpreted the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. For example, a Wisconsin court said that a blood test was permissible when a driver was passed out from being drunk, while a Vermont court ruled that even if a driver refuses a warrantless blood draw, that driver’s refusal can be used as evidence against him or her in court.

Why does any driver potentially have to submit to a breath or a blood test? This is known as “implied consent.” When you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and are lawfully stopped by a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe you were driving while intoxicated, you have consented to have your BAC tested. Yet the legality of all methods for testing a driver’s BAC is not the same, and some are more invasive than others. More precisely, a blood draw is more invasive than a breath test, and as such, it typically requires police to have a warrant.

What Do Cops Look for in a Blood Test?

When law enforcement officers request a blood test, their primary goal is to measure a suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC) or to detect the presence of drugs. These tests are considered more reliable than breath tests because they can accurately determine the exact BAC level and identify specific drugs along with their quantities in a person’s bloodstream.

Blood tests are crucial in cases involving suspected driving under the influence (DUI) or when drug use is suspected in other criminal scenarios. Unlike breathalyzers, which only provide BAC levels and can sometimes produce inaccurate results due to calibration issues or improper use, blood tests can detect a wide range of substances including prescription medications, illegal drugs, and alcohol.

However, despite their higher accuracy over breath tests, blood tests can still be subject to reliability concerns. Errors can occur due to improper blood sample collection, contamination, or mishandling during transport and storage. Additionally, the timing of the test in relation to when the alcohol or drugs were consumed can affect the results, as blood concentrations of substances can fluctuate over time.

Therefore, while cops rely on blood tests for their detailed insights into substance use, the integrity of the testing procedure and handling of the samples are crucial to maintain the accuracy and reliability of the results. 

If you’re wondering what cops look for in a blood test after a DUI stop, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the implications of the results. An experienced Oakland County DUI attorney can provide the guidance and defense strategy you need. Contact Michigan Defense Law today for a consultation and let us help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Contact a Michigan Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer

If you were stopped for an OWI and subjected to a warrantless blood test, or if you refused a blood test but submitted to a breath test, you should speak with a Michigan criminal defense lawyer about your options. Contact the law office of Paul J. Tafelski today for more information.

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