Can Police Take My Blood Without a Warrant in Texas?
Texas has an “implied consent” law regarding DWI. This means that if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to arrest you for driving while intoxicated, you automatically consent to a blood or breath test to confirm your BAC level.
However, implied consent does not necessarily mean you have actually provided consent. But if you refuse, the state will automatically suspend your driver’s license for a specific period of time.
What about warrantless blood draws? Does implied consent still apply?
On November 2014, the state’s highest criminal court ruled that the Texas law which allows police officers to take blood samples from suspected drunk drivers without a warrant is unconstitutional. According to Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, “…[A] nonconsensual search of a DWI suspect’s blood conducted pursuant to the mandatory-blood-draw and implied-consent provisions in the Transportation Code, when undertaken in the absence of a warrant or any applicable exception to the warrant requirement, violates the Fourth Amendment.”
The ruling stems from the 2012 case of David Villarreal, who was pulled over for a traffic violation in Nueces County. When he had refused to perform field sobriety tests, Villarreal was arrested and brought to a local hospital to have his own blood drawn without his consent and a warrant.
The arresting officer declared the blood draw was legal because state law requires the taking of a blood or breath sample of anyone previously convicted of two or more DWIs. However, Villarreal’s attorney cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling—Missouri v. McNeely—that state drawing blood from a DWI suspect without a warrant violated the suspect’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.
The trial court sided with Villarreal’s defense, saying the blood sample evidence was considered inadmissible. The state then brought the case up to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where it was dismissed once again.