Overturning DWI Convictions Due to Warrantless Blood Draws

Warrantless Blood Draws

In April 2013, in the case of Missouri v. McNeeley, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled warrantless (or non-consensual) blood draws in DUI/DWI cases unconstitutional.

Prior to this decision, the argument on warrantless blood draws was that due to the nature of blood alcohol evidence in a DWI case, “exigent circumstances,” allowed for a warrantless blood draw in a DWI investigation. As a result, an unknown number of individuals are serving prison sentences when the only solid evidence against them is the results of a blood draw.

In Missouri v. McNeeley, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to take an individual’s blood for testing because the police officer suspects that individual is intoxicated without the officer obtaining a proper search warrant to do so.

Recently, Samuel Gentry, of Tyler, Texas, saw his DWI conviction and the life sentence he was serving overturned due to the High Court’s ruling in Missouri v. McNeeley.

The Gentry Case

In 2012, the police did a blood test on Samuel Gentry, without warrant, and then arrested him for driving while intoxicated. Gentry plead guilty to the drunk driving charges, and then faced a jury of his peers, who decided that he was a danger to the public and handed him a life sentence.

The Texas Transportation Code Sec. 724.012(b)(3)(B) allows for a warrantless blood draw when the suspect has previous DWI convictions on his record. Under this statute, it is deemed that serial offenders have consented to the blood draw. The State of Texas argued that because it was not Gentry’s first offense, the blood draw was legal. Gentry’s attorneys, on the other hand, argued successfully that the blood draw was unconstitutional based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeeley. The Tyler Court of Appeals overturned Gentry’s conviction and life sentence.

In a similar case in San Antonio, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ruling the warrantless blood draw of defendant Antonio Aviles unconstitutional.

The police are already often handling DWI cases with more caution, obtaining a search warrants before performing a blood draw on an individual suspected of driving while intoxicated. However we may continue to see more cases like Gentry’s overturned.

If you have been charged with DWI and the police performed a blood draw without first obtaining a search warrant, there may be grounds for suppression of the test results and potentially winning the case (pending a review of all the evidence presented by the prosecution). If you believe evidence against you has been unconstitutionally collected, contact experienced Dallas criminal law attorney, Roger Haynes.