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Exigent Circumstances Argument Rejected in Blood Draw Case

Exigent circumstances is one of the exceptions to the requirement that a search be authorized by a warrant to be considered reasonable. But exigent circumstances arguments to draw blood without a warrant when a person is suspected of driving under the influence have been often rejected since the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Missouri v. McNeely in 2013 (determining that the dissipation of alcohol in the blood over time did not create exigent circumstances when it was still reasonable to obtain a warrant). In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Cates, E2014-01322-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 9-28-2015), the Court of Criminal Appeals has again reversed a warrantless blood draw.

In the Cates case, the Defendant was convicted of vehicular homicide at trial. The trial court had rejected his motion to suppress the results of the analysis of blood obtained in a warrantless blood draw. The trial court found that obtaining a search warrant would have been unreasonably difficult due to the time of night and the lack of available staff at the police department. But the Court of Criminal Appeals determined the evidence did not support the trial court's conclusion of exigent circumstances, and that the State had not established that available police officers could not have reasonably obtained a warrant. The conviction was reversed and remanded for a new trial without the use of the blood evidence.

Interestingly, the State on appeal also argued that Tennessee's implied consent statute created a valid exception to the warrant requirement in this case. But the appellate court did not consider the merits of this argument on appeal, as it had not been raised or argued by the prosecutor to the trial court.

For more information on the admissibility of blood draw evidence in a particular case, contact Hindman & Associates.

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