DWI No Refusal Christmas Fort Worth

Twas the Night Before No Refusal Weekend in Tarrant County

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Tarrant County No Refusal Period to Begin on Christmas Eve

Tarrant County typically implements a No Refusal period during major holidays.  Being in the Christmas spirit, we thought that our No Refusal warning would be better if it rhymed.  Enjoy our Christmas No Refusal poem.

DWI No Refusal Christmas Fort Worth

Twas the night before Christmas, the police are all out,
Searching for drunk drivers that might be about.
They’ll be near the parties at restaurants and taverns.
They’ll pull your car over for bizarre driving patterns.
They’ll give the field test, “walk the line, heel to toe,”
And if you misstep, to the pokey you’ll go.
They’ll ask you to blow in the breath test device,
To see how much eggnog you’ve had on this night.
And if you refuse, to a magistrate they’ll dash,
To get a search warrant as quick as a flash.
So take an Uber this Christmas, a lesser price you’ll pay.
Don’t drink and drive on this No Refusal Holiday.

Birchfield v. North Dakota Supreme Court Breath Test

Criminal Penalties for Refusing a Breath Test—Are They Coming to Texas?

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Can Texas Charge a Person with a Crime for Refusing a Breath or Blood Test During a DWI Stop?

In Texas, when a person refuses to provide a breath or blood specimen when being arrested for alleged drunk driving offense, their driver’s license is typically suspended. But, can a state have a law that additionally makes it a crime to refuse a breath or blood test? In Birchfield v. North Dakota, the United States Supreme Court held that a state can attach a criminal penalty to those that refuse to submit to a warrantless breath test but they cannot for those that refuse to submit to a warrantless blood test.

In a previous blog post we discussed the oral arguments that took place in this case and briefed the three cases facing the court, Birchfield , Bernard and Beylund.  Birchfield had been criminally prosecuted for refusing a warrantless blood draw; Bernard had been criminally prosecuted for refusing a warrantless breath test; and Beylund, while not criminally prosecuted for refusing a test, submitted to a blood test after the officer told him the law required it. Birchfield v. North Dakota 579 U.S. ____ (2016).

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Birchfield Upholding Criminal Penalty for Breath Test Refusal (But Not Blood)

SUPREME COURT DECISION – Birchfield v. North Dakota

First, the Court determined whether warrantless breath and blood tests were proper searches incident to arrest for drunk driving. The Court held that since “breath tests are significantly less intrusive than blood tests” and in most cases adequately serve law enforcement interests, the Fourth Amendment permits a warrantless breath test but not blood test as a search incident to arrest for drunk driving.

Next, the Court addressed the argument that when making the decision to drive on a public road, drivers are deemed to have given consent to submit to a blood test. Applying the Fourth Amendment reasonableness standard, the Court held that “motorists cannot be deemed to have consented to submit to a blood test on pain of committing a criminal offense.” Birchfield, 579 U.S. ____ (2016).

Finally, the Court applies these legal conclusions to the three cases.  In Birchfield, the Court held that the judgment affirming his conviction must be reversed because the warrantless blood draw was not a justified search incident to arrest and he was thus, threatened with an unlawful search. In Bernard, the Court held that Bernard had no right to refuse the breath test because it was a proper search incident to arrest. In Beylund, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case to the state court to reconsider Beylund’s consent given the partial inaccuracy of the officer’s statement that “the law required it.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held that States may enact laws that attach criminal penalties to the refusal to submit to a breath test but they may not enact such laws that will apply to refusal to submit a blood test. So what does this mean for Texas? Well, while we do not currently have laws in place that attaches a criminal penalty to refusal of a breathalyzer, the State could enact a law that makes it a crime to refuse to provide a warrantless breath test incident to arrest of drunk driving.

Exigent Circumstances Warrantless Blood Draw

Understaffing of Police Cannot Create the “Exigency” to Justify a Warrantless Blood Draw

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In a Warrantless DWI Blood Draw Case, State Offers “Understaffing of Police” as an Exigent Circumstance.

Exigent Circumstances Warrantless Blood DrawBonsignore v State (2nd Court of Appeals – Fort Worth, 2016)

After traveling eighty miles an hour in a forty miles per hour zone, Jeremy Bonsignore pulled into a Waffle House and started walking toward the restaurant. Unknown to Bonsignore, law enforcement had been following him for several minutes. Once the officer pulled into the parking lot, he activated his lights and began yelling at Bonsignore to stop walking. Bonsignore turned around, stumbled, and lost his balance. The officer noted the presence of a strong odor of alcohol and that Bonsignore’s eyes appeared glassy.

Bonsignore admitted to having a few drinks earlier in the day, which prompted the officer to conduct several field sobriety tests. Bonsignore failed them and then abruptly refused to do anymore tests or provide a breath or blood sample. Bonsignore was placed under arrest at 1:49 am. Dispatch informed the officer that Bonsignore had two prior DWI convictions, which could amount to Bonsignore being a repeat DWI offender, a felony offense. With this information in mind, the officer instructed a second officer to take Bonsignore to the hospital for a mandatory blood draw. The blood draw was conducted at 2:55 am. Bonsignore did not consent to the taking of his blood and the officer did not obtain a warrant.

Warrantless Blood Draw Issue at Trial

Before trial began, Bonsignore filed a motion to suppress the results of the blood draw, arguing that the blood draw was warrantless, and therefore, unconstitutional. The motion was never officially ruled upon, although the court did take the motion under advisement. During trial, when asked why he ordered the blood draw, the officer said that Bonsignore’s “two prior convictions were his only authority for obtaining the blood draw.” The officer did not attempt to obtain a search warrant, and he acknowledged that Bonsignore did not give his consent to a blood draw.

The officer testified that he relied solely on the statute, Texas Transportation Code 724.012, for authority to order the draw against Bonsignore’s will. Pleading guilty to the charges, the trial court issued Bonsignore a two-year sentence. Bonsignore appealed, arguing that his motion to suppress the evidence should have been ruled upon because the blood draw was taken without his consent and without a search warrant, violating the ruling in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). The State argues that (1) Bonsignore’s blood-alcohol level would dissipate over time, (2) he was a repeat felony offender, and (3) the police department was small and understaffed, and that obtaining a warrant in this case would have been overly-burdensome for the officers that night.

Is “Dissipation” an Exigent Circumstance to Justify a Warrantless Search?

In the wake of the McNeely case, the Second Court of Appeals must determine whether Bonsignore’s blood draw was constitutional, and, whether the State may rely on an exigency “emergency circumstances” argument as an exception to the Fourth Amendment.

Texas Transportation Code

Section 724.012(b)(3)(B) states that blood or breath samples may be required to be taken when the suspect is arrested for DWI and he refuses to give the specimen voluntarily, so long as the suspect has two prior DWI convictions, “although [the code] does not expressly authorize taking the specimen without a warrant.” State v. Swan, 483, S.W.3d 760, 764 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2016, no pet.).

However, “the explicit refusal to submit to blood testing overrides the existence of any implied consent and that implied consent that has been withdrawn by a suspect cannot serve as a substitute for the free and voluntary consent that the Fourth Amendment requires.” State v. Villarreal, 475 S.W.3d 784, 800.

Precedent Case Law: Missouri v. McNeely

“The natural metabolism of alcohol in the bloodstream [does not] present a per se exigent circumstance justifying an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases.” McNeely, 133 S. Ct. at 1556, 1558.

The Second Court of Appeals Weighs In

The Second Court of Appeals agreed with Bonsignore. “The police may not create their own exigency to make a warrantless arrest or search.” Parker v. State, 206 S.W.3d 593, 598 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006). “Exigent circumstances do not meet Fourth Amendment standards if [law enforcement] deliberately creates the [circumstances].” Id.

Here, the Court held, law enforcement knew that it was not a “No Refusal Weekend” in Texas. Further, the police department knew that it only had three officers on duty the entire night Bonsignore was arrested. In fact, understaffing the department was a typical occurrence. There was nothing out of the norm about the number of officers on duty that night. “Deliberately scheduling an insufficient number of patrol officers on an evening shift does not constitute an exigent circumstance.” State v. McClendon, NO. 02-15-00019-CR, 2016 WL 742018 (Tex. App.—Forth Worth, Feb. 25, 2016, no pet.).

Additionally, the department had a protocol for obtaining warrants, even in the absence of magistrates “on call.” Also, there was no earth-shattering emergency or problem that prevented the officers from making attempts to secure a warrant for Bonsignore’s search. The Court makes a point to highlight the efficiency of fax machines for the purposes of securing warrants, “thanks to the fax machine, [law enforcement] could …request a search warrant” and “thanks again to a fax machine…once [law enforcement] had the search warrant, [they] could fax it directly to a hospital instead of driving [the warrant] there.” The argument that the police department is small was unpersuasive for the Second Court of Appeals. For these reasons, the Second Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Preserve Appeal in DWI Blood Draw Case

Warrantless Blood Draw Case Turns on Defense Failure to Preserve Appellate Issue

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Court of Criminal Appeals Considers Whether Defense Failed to Preserve Appeal

Preserve Appeal in DWI Blood Draw Case

Smith v. State (Tex Crim. App. 2016)

Warrantless Blood Draw Provides Evidence of DWI

William Smith was stopped by police for driving without a seatbelt. Immediately, law enforcement suspected Smith of driving under the influence because of the “extremely strong smell of alcohol” coming from Smith. Accordingly, law enforcement administered several field sobriety tests and determined that Smith “exhibited clues of intoxication.” Smith became belligerent after being arrested, and refused a breathalyzer. Law enforcement searched Smith’s car incident to his arrest, finding three open containers that were “cold to the touch.” Dashboard camera footage captured the entire stop.

Law enforcement decided to transport Smith to a local hospital for a blood draw because a quick check of Smith’s ID showed that he had two prior DWI convictions. The blood sample taken at the hospital reflected a blood-alcohol concentration of .21 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood—well above the legal limit of .08. Smith elected a bench trial.

Defense Counsel Argues that Blood Draw was Unconstitutional, Trial Judge Seems to Agree

At trial, the State called a forensic scientist to testify about Smith’s blood sample. The forensic scientist testified that Smith’s blood alcohol level exceeded the statutory minimum of .08. Shortly thereafter, there was discussion between the judge and counsel about Texas case law in regards to whether the court must have an “order” signed by a judge or magistrate in order for a blood alcohol test to be admitted into evidence. The defense counsel stated, “I would…object…on constitutional grounds [because] there should be a written order [in evidence].” The State replied that law enforcement was “operating under the laws of the State.” The judge seemed to agree with defense counsel, “No…the legislature allows for this…but that doesn’t mean the law is constitutional.” The judge decided to “carry” the constitutional issue so that each side could research and make a formal brief before the court. However, at the end of the trial, Smith was convicted of DWI. The judge stated the “video of [Smith] showed signs of intoxication, but the judge was surprised…that [Smith]…did as well as he did on the [field sobriety tests]” given the .21 blood alcohol concentration. The judge sentenced Smith to twenty-five years imprisonment. There were no further objections on the record made by defense counsel post-judgment.

Appeal Turns on Lawfulness of the Blood Draw

On appeal, the court of appeals reversed Smith’s conviction because the blood sample was obtained without a warrant, violating the Fourth Amendment. State appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that Smith did not preserve error at trial with regard to his Fourth Amendment issue, and as a result of the failure, Smith was precluded from raising a constitutional argument on appeal.

The Issue Before the CCA – Did the Defense Preserve Appeal of the Blood Draw Issue?

The CCA must determine whether defense preserved error so that the fourth amendment search and seizure issue could be raised on appeal. To preserve error, defense counsel must obtain a ruling on the complaint, or object to the trial judge’s refusal to rule.” Tex. R. App. P. 33.1(a)(2) However, “even evidence that is improperly admitted is considered in determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support a conviction.” Soliz v. State, 432 S.W.3d 895, 900 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).

The CCA Holds that Appellate Issue was NOT Preserved

Here, the CCA determined that the trial judge declined to rule on the Fourth Amendment constitutional issue at the time, but decided to “carry” the issue. Garza v. State, 126 S.W.3d 79, 83 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004). The CCA says that although the trial judge admitted the blood-alcohol test results, he did not rule on Smith’s initial objection, and thus, error was not preserved in this case. “In any event,” says the CCA, “there was…evidence to support [Smith’s] conviction aside from the blood-test results.” “Smith never asked for a ruling on the [constitutional issue], nor did defense counsel object to the trial judge’s failure to rule. In sum, failure to preserve error on a fourth amendment search and seizure argument for warrantless blood draws in DWI cases precludes a defendant from raising the constitutional argument on appeal.

Warrantless Blood Draw DWI CCA

Two New Warrantless Blood Draw Opinions; Two Different Results

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CCA Reaches Different Conclusions in Two Separate Warrantless Blood Draw DWI Cases

Warrantless Blood Draw DWI CCAJust when we thought the warrantless blood draw issue was starting to reach firm footing in our appellate case law, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) throws a wrench into it. This week the CCA handed down a confounding set of opinions relating to warrantless blood draws in two separate DWI cases—Weems v. State and Cole v. State. Both cases dealt with drivers who were alleged to be intoxicated, both cases involved serious car accidents, both drivers suffered injuries, and, both cases presented law enforcement with the difficult decision to obtain blood samples without a warrant, as the body’s natural metabolic process threatened to destroy evidence over time that could have been used to charge and to prosecute the suspected intoxicated drivers. Procedurally, both Weems and Cole argue that the Texas Transportation Code § 724.012 is at odds with the Fourth Amendment and McNeely. Let’s take a look at the facts of each case and briefly review Texas law to reveal the reasoning behind the surprising conclusions reached by the CCA.

Weems v. State

A Night of Drinking Leads to a Car Accident

FACTS: Daniel Weems drank heavily at a bar for several hours one summer evening in June of 2011. Weems decided to drive home around 11:00pm, and on the way, his car veered off the road and flipped over, striking a utility pole. A passerby stopped to help, but saw Weems exit the car through his window. When asked if he was alright, Weems stumbled around saying that he was drunk. Noticing the smell of alcohol, the passerby called 911 and watched Weems run from the scene. When the first police officer arrived at midnight, Weems was found hiding under a parked car.

Law enforcement noted his bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and inability to stand without assistance in the police report. Moments later, a second police officer came to the scene and arrested Weems on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (“DWI”). Law enforcement decided against conducting field sobriety tests because Weems suffered injuries and had “lost the normal use of his mental and physical faculties due to alcohol.” TEX. PENAL CODE § 49.01 (2)(A). Weems, however, refused a breathalyzer and a blood test, even after law enforcement informed him of the potential consequences (suspended license, etc.) for refusal. Emergency responders transported Weems to a nearby hospital because Weems complained of neck and back pain.

Arrest Leads to Warrantless Blood Draw

Weems was seen in the hospital’s trauma unit and the second police officer completed the form, requesting a blood draw, while the first police officer remained on duty, but on standby. Weems blood was taken at 2:30 am, over two hours post-arrest, with a result of .18—well above the .08 legal limit. Relying on the Supreme Court case Missouri v. McNeely, where the highest court held that the body’s natural metabolic processing of alcohol in the bloodstream does not create an exigency (emergency) such that an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement is created, Weems sought to have the results of the blood draw suppressed at trial. The trial court did not grant the suppression and jury found Weems guilty of felony DWI, sentencing him to eighty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Weems argued that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Surprisingly, the Fourth Court of Appeals agreed with Weems, holding that in light of McNeely, Texas’s implied consent and mandatory blood draw schemes do not give way to warrant-requirement exceptions, and, that the record established at Weems’s trial did not support admitting the warrantless blood draw results under an exigency exception. The State appealed to the CCA.

Cole v. State

Fatal Car Crash Leads to Arrest

FACTS: On a December evening in 2011, Steven Cole drove his vehicle 110 miles per hour down a busy street, running a red light, and crashing into a pickup truck. The crash caused a large explosion and fire, killing the driver of the pickup truck instantly. When the first police officer arrived at the scene around 10:30pm, he saw Cole shouting for help because he was trapped in his truck in the fire’s path. Shortly thereafter, several police officers arrived and began putting out the multiple fires to secure the area for pedestrians and motorists.

Law enforcement would later testify that “from a law enforcement and safety perspective, they needed as many officers on the scene as they could possibly get” because the raging fires and continued explosions put the public in danger. When the crash occurred, the police were in the middle of a shift change which further complicated securing the scene, conducting the investigation and maintaining public safety. Cole was eventually rescued from his truck and was examined by EMTs, to whom Cole admitted that he had taken some meth. Because of the large debris field that spanned an entire block, fourteen police officers remained at the scene to collect evidence and secure the area, which pushed the limits of the small precinct’s manpower. The debris field was not fully cleared until 6:00am—almost eight hours after the crash. Because of the size of the debris field and dangerousness of the scene requiring multiple officers to secure, only one police officer accompanied Cole to the hospital.

Suspected Intoxication Leads to Warrantless Blood Draw

At the hospital, Cole was observed complaining of pain, but also, “tweaking” and shaking—potential symptoms of suspected methamphetamine intoxication. Under a directive from the superior officer on duty, the police officer arrested Cole at 11:38pm and asked Cole for consent to collect blood and breath samples. When Cole refused, the officer read the statutory consequences for failure to consent. Cole interrupted the officer several times to comment that he had not been drinking, rather, he had taken meth. The officer made a request to the hospital for a blood draw, which was done at 12:20am. The results confirmed that Cole’s blood contained amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Cole moved to suppress the evidence at trial, but the trial court overruled the motion. The jury convicted Cole of intoxication manslaughter, sentencing Cole to a life imprisonment. On appeal, the court of appeals held that the lower court erred in not suppressing Cole’s blood draw results because State v.Villarreal “foreclosed on the State’s reliance on the mandatory blood-draw provision found in the Texas Transportation Code, and that, the trial court record did not establish that an emergency (exigency) existed to justify the warrantless blood draw. Cole v. State, 454 S.W.3d 89, 103 (Tex. App—Texarkana 2014). The State appealed to the CCA.

Law Applicable to Warrantless Blood Draws

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” U.S. CONT. amend. IV. McNeely informs that blood tests are Fourth Amendment searches that implicate a “most personal and deep-rooted expectation of privacy.” McNeely, 133 S. Ct. at 1558-59 (quoting Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753, 760 (1985)). Case law has determined that “a warrantless search is reasonable only if it falls within a recognized exception.” State v. Villarreal, 475 S.W.3d 784, 796 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015), reh’g denied, 475 S.W.3d 817, (Tex. Crim. App. 2015) (per curiam).

One exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement is a warrantless search performed to prevent imminent evidence destruction when there is no time to secure a warrant. Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U.S. 291, 296 (1973); McNeely, 133 S. Ct. at 1559. Whether law enforcement faces an emergency that justifies acting without a warrant calls for a case-by-case determination based upon the totality of the circumstances. Id. In order for courts to determine whether an emergency existed, courts must analyze the totality of the circumstances based on an objective evaluation of the facts reasonably available to law enforcement at the time of a search, and not based on 20/20 hindsight of the facts as they are known after the fact. Brigham City, Utah v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 404 (2006); Ryburn v. Huff, 132 S. Ct. 987, 992 (2012)(per curiam).

Texas Transportation Code § 724.012

Texas Transportation Code § 724.012(a) states, “specimens of a person’s breath or blood may be taken if the person is arrested and at the request of [law enforcement] having reasonable grounds to believe the person was intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle.” § 724.012(b) states, “[Law enforcement] shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s breath or blood…if the officer arrests the person [for DUI/DWI] and the person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of the specimen voluntarily…[where] any individual has died…an individual other than the person has suffered serious bodily injury.”

The CCA Weighs In—What did the CCA Decide and How Did the Judges Reach The Decisions?

In both Weems and Cole, the Court of Criminal Appeals had to determine whether the warrantless blood draws were justified by exigent (emergency) circumstances under a totality of the circumstances review of the facts. It may be surprising that in one case the CCA upheld the legality of the blood draw and in the other case the CCA held that the blood draw was unlawful.  The charts below shed some light on the relevant facts of each case that the CCA reviewed to determine the holdings in each case. As you can see, the cases are quite similar, yet have some striking differences—differences that distinguished each case just enough for the CCA to arrive at opposite conclusions.

Totality of the Circumstances Analysis
Similarities Between Weems and Cole

WEEMS COLE
Refused consent to breath and blood tests. Refused consent to breath and blood tests.
Driver caused car crash. Driver caused car crash.
Driver injured in crash. Driver injured in crash.
Admitted to drinking during initial questioning. Admitted to using meth during initial questioning.
Moved to suppress evidence at trial. Moved to suppress evidence at trial.
Warrantless blood draw. Warrantless blood draw.
Law enforcement claimed “exigency/emergency” as reason for warrantless blood draw. Law enforcement claimed “exigency/emergency” as reason for warrantless blood draw.
Law enforcement concerned BAC would fall over time, destroying potential evidence. Law enforcement was concerned intoxication levels would fall over time, destroying potential evidence.

Totality of the Circumstances Analysis
Differences Between Weems and Cole

WEEMS COLE
Single-vehicle crash. Two-vehicle crash.
Small, rural road. Large, high-traffic intersection.
Two police officers, one who remained on “stand-by”. Entire police department tasked with maintaining and securing the exceedingly dangerous scene.
No deaths as a result of crash. One fatality as a result of crash.
Small debris field. Large “one block long” debris field.
Alcohol was the substance at issue. Meth was the substance at issue.
Alcohol has a ‘known’ dissipation time. Meth has a ‘lesser known’ dissipation time.
Police department’s manpower was not overwhelmed by the crash. Police department’s manpower pushed to the limits by the crash.
Nothing on the record to indicate Weems was going to receive pain medication that would impact the results of a blood test. Hospital was set to give narcotics to Cole because of pain, narcotics that could potentially impact the results of a blood test.

The CCA’s Holding in Weems – Warrantless Blood Draw Improper

In Weems v. State, the CCA concluded that the warrantless blood draw was NOT justified by exigent (emergency) circumstances. The CCA affirmed the holding of the court of appeals that said that § 724.012 of the Texas Transportation Code does not create an exigency exception to the Fourth Amendment and that the trial court did not establish on the record any facts to support a finding of an exigent circumstance. The CCA stated that law enforcement might have had a “temporal disadvantage,” however, the time frame from the crash to the time Weems was transported to the hospital was short and that the police officer who was on standby could have called a magistrate to obtain a warrant, “the hypothetically available officer could have secured a warrant in the arresting officer’s stead.”

Further, even though the hospital took two hours to obtain the sample, such a timeframe would not have been known beforehand by law enforcement, and thus is considered “hindsight.” Hindsight is not factored into the totality of circumstances analyses. Additionally, the police department’s manpower was not completely tied up with the details of Weems’s crash. Lastly, the CCA commented that law enforcement should have protocols in place to process and deal with blood draw warrants in cases where the suspected intoxicated driver is transported to the hospital with injuries, “the record does not reflect what procedures, if any, existed for obtaining a warrant when an arrestee is taken to the hospital.”

The CCA’s Holding in Cole – Warrantless Blood Draw Authorized

In Cole v. State, the CCA held that the trial record established circumstances rendering obtaining a warrant impractical and that the warrantless search was justified under the exigency exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The case was reversed and remanded to the court of appeals.

The CCA said that the size and severity of the accident scene requiring several police officers to remain on the scene for public safety concerns, the large debris field that required accident investigators extended time to complete the investigation, the fact that someone died in the crash, and the fact that the dissipation rate for methamphetamine is not widely known among law enforcement the way alcohol dissipation in known, are reasons that come together to create a constellation of exigency under a totality of the circumstances analysis.

“Law enforcement was confronted with not only the natural destruction of evidence though natural dissipation of intoxicating substances, but also with the logistical and practical constraints posed by a severe accident involving a death and the attendant duties this accident demanded.” Further, because Cole complained of pain, law enforcement had a legitimate concern that any narcotic drugs administered would impact the outcome of a blood test, rendering the test ineffective for evidence in trial later on.

Justice Johnson did file a dissent in Cole, “I would hold that the circumstances and testimony at trial indicate that a warrant was required.” Justice Johnson says that someone on the police force could have obtained a warrant and had enough time to do so, “this was not a now or never situation that would relieve the state of its burden.”

Where do we go from here?

No Refusal Weekends for DWI in Fort Worth, Texas

No Refusal Weekends in Texas | DWI Blood Search Warrant

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What you need to know about No Refusal Weekends in Texas | Fort Worth DWI Attorneys

No Refusal Weekends for DWI in Fort Worth, TexasThroughout the year, as various holidays approach (Christmas, New Year’s, Super Bowl weekend, 4th of July, etc.), we receive questions about “No Refusal Weekends,” in which police agencies crack down on driving while intoxicated or DWI. It is important that Texas motorists understand the rules of the road, so that every holiday season remains merry and bright. Many have seen the “No Refusal” notices on electronic road signs, heard the “No Refusal” advertisements on the radio, or watched stories on the news related to “No Refusal” for suspected drunk driving. What is “No Refusal” and how does the law impact your holiday travel? Understanding a few basic things about the law could help you in the event of a traffic stop or a detention by a law enforcement officer.

What is No Refusal Weekend?

No Refusal Weekend refers to a short period of time, typically a holiday weekend or the weekend of a special event, such as the Super Bowl, where law enforcement advertises the ability to conduct routine traffic stops, detaining motorists for suspected DWI. During the stop, law enforcement requests a blood or breath sample, and, if the motorist refuses to comply, law enforcement immediately contacts a judge or magistrate who is designated “on call” during the No Refusal time frame. If the law enforcement officer conveys to the judge that (1) there was reasonable suspicion to detain the motorist for a traffic or criminal offense, and, (2) there is probable cause to believe the motorist is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then the judge quickly issues a search warrant for the sample. Tex. Transp. Code §§ 724.011(a), 724.012(b), 724. At that point, law enforcement may call for a phlebotomist to take the sample on site, or may transport a motorist to a facility to obtain the sample. If all goes according to plan, “no refusal” speeds up the process by which law enforcement obtain samples used for DWI/DUI arrests. Further, the sample becomes evidence for trial.

What is the purpose of No Refusal Weekend?

The entire No Refusal process from detention to arrest is faster in theory, the goal being to catch motorists who are driving under the influence quickly, and to capture the highest blood alcohol content (“BAC”) possible. In Texas, a BAC level of .08 is considered legally intoxicated. No Refusal Weekend differs from a DWI stop on regular days by it’s speed — the quick phone call to an “on call” judge who is waiting by the phone to issue warrants — and it’s deference to law enforcement in the moment. So what does this mean for you, the Texas motorist?

You have the right to refuse blood and breath tests initially.

The term No Refusal sometimes confuses motorists. Many believe they cannot refuse a law enforcement officer’s request for a sample during a No Refusal period. Not true. On No Refusal Weekend motorists still have the right to refuse to provide blood and breath during a traffic stop. However, if law enforcement obtains a search warrant for blood, the motorist must comply; failure to comply may result in additional charges. Once the officer has a warrant in hand, the rules change. But before the officer obtains a warrant, you can refuse to provide breath or blood and you may refuse to submit to field sobriety tests. For notifications about when No Refusal Weekends begin in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and to know your rights if you are stopped by an officer, download our free App from the App Store or Google Play — know your rights before you go out!

*Note: Refusal of a breath or blood test may result in temporary loss of driving privileges, even if the officer later obtains a warrant to conduct the search.  The courts will typically grant an occupational driver’s license to work and household tasks.

Warrantless searches for blood alcohol content in DWI cases violate the Fourth Amendment.

The No Refusal law comes from an “implied consent” provision in the Texas Transportation Code. The 2007 law states, “if a person is arrested for…operating a motor vehicle in a public place…while intoxicated…the person is deemed to have consented…to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person’s breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person’s body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance.” Tex. Transp. Code §§ 724.011(a), 724.012(b), 724. However, in 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that “warrantless, nonconsensual testing of a DWI suspect’s blood does not…fall within any recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, nor can it be justified under a…Fourth Amendment balancing test.” State v. Villareal, PD-0306-14 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).  See also, the US Supreme Court’s opinion in Missouri v. McNeely. In summary, a motorist may refuse a blood or breath test upon an initial request by law enforcement, but after a warrant is obtained from a judge, a motorist may not refuse at that point because it is mandatory—hence the name No Refusal.

Please take the time to know your responsibilities and rights before heading out on No Refusal Weekends in Texas. Download our App on the App Store or on Google Play for the latest information on No Refusal Weekends. Have a safe and happy holiday season! This article is for educational purposes only and does not take the place of legal advice. If you are in need of a DWI attorney, please contact our office for a free consultation at (817) 993-9249.


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DWI Blood Draw Defense Lawyers Fort Worth

Warrantless DWI Blood Draw Held Unconstitutional By Fort Worth Court

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DWI Blood Draw Defense Lawyers Fort WorthMosquitoes are pesky little things. They land on you, insert a sharp needle-like nose into your arm and suck your blood without even asking for permission. Well, like the hard slap of a hand on top of one of these pests, Texas courts are finally falling in line behind the Supreme Court’s ruling in Missouri v. McNeely (133 S. Ct. 1551 (2013)) striking down warrantless blood draws of a driver’s blood in DWI cases.

Last month, the Second District Court of Appeals in Burks v. State held that a warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw – even conducted pursuant to the mandatory-blood-draw and implied-consent provisions of the Texas Transportation Code violates the Fourth Amendment to the United State’s Constitution.

The defendant in the Burks case was pulled over for changing lanes without signaling. A North Richland Hills police officer pulled him over and developed probable cause to arrest him for DWI. Because the defendant had been convicted twice before for DWI, the officer relied on Texas Transportation Code 724.012 to take the defendant’s blood without consent and without a warrant. Texas Transportation Code 724.012 provides that an officer may obtain a blood sample from a defendant without consent and without a warrant if the defendant on two or more occasions had been previously convicted or placed on community supervision for Driving While Intoxicated.

The Second Court of Appeals specifically held that this type of blood draw, despite being authorized by a state statute, still violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition to the Supreme Court’s ruling in McNeely, the court here relied on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision in State v. Villarreal (No. PD-0306-14, 2014 WL 6734178 (Tex. Crim. App. Nov. 26, 2014), which held also that a warrantless, nonconsensual draw of a DWI suspect’s blood does not categorically fall within any recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, nor can it be justified under a general Fourth Amendment balancing test.

What does all this mean? As we’ve said in the past, the demise of warrantless blood draws for drivers in Texas continues to remain imminent and cases like Burks continue to reinforce the fact that the teeth of the United State’s Constitution bite much harder than the needle of an unreasonable search and seizure.

DWI Blood Draw Defense Lawyers Fort Worth

Warrantless Search: DWI Blood Draw Struck Down as Unconstitutional

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DWI Blood Draw Defense Lawyers Fort WorthIssue before the Court: “In the absence of exigent circumstances or consent, does Texas Transportation Code §724.012(b)(3)(B) violate the Texas and U.S. constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures where the statute requires law enforcement officers to seize a specimen of a DWI arrestee’s blood without a search warrant in all cases where the officer believes the arrestee has been previously convicted of DWI two or more times?”

Sutherland v. State (2014)- On the night of February 2, 2011, Austin PD Officer Housmans initiated a traffic stop after a vehicle changed lanes without using a turn signal.  Once the vehicle had pulled over, Housmans approached the driver, appellant Sutherland, and, after speaking with him for “a bit,” asked the appellant to step out of the vehicle.  Housmans administered field sobriety tests on appellant, and arrested appellant based on his performance on the tests and on his suspicion that the appellant was driving while intoxicated.  Appellant refused to provide a breath specimen. Dispatch provided Housmans with Texas DPS records showing that appellant had two or more previous convictions for DWI.  The appellant was then transported to the Travis County jail where, ultimately, a blood sample was drawn without appellant’s consent and without a warrant.

Following the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress evidence of his intoxication, appellant pleaded guilty to the charges but reserved his right to appeal the trial court’s ruling.  The appellant appealed his conviction for felony DWI.  The appellant challenged the constitutionality of the procedure and authority under which a sample of his blood was taken without his consent.  Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the results of the testing done on the sample of his blood taken in such a manner.

Housmans claimed that he relied on the provision of the Texas Transportation Code that required him to obtain a sample of a suspect’s blood whenever he learns that the individual has been convicted two or more times of DWI.  Appellant maintained that, regardless of the mandatory language of the Transportation Code, constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures require that a warrantless search be supported by an established exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, in this case, the exigent circumstances exception.  Appellant further contended that no established exception-exigent circumstances or otherwise – applied here.

According to the Seventh Court of Appeals- Amarillo, the arresting officer was not faced with exigent circumstances such that the natural dissipation of alcohol from appellant’s bloodstream would support a warrantless seizure of a specimen of appellant’s blood.  The arresting officer did not describe any factors that would suggest he was confronted with an emergency or any unusual delay in securing a warrant.  He testified that he made no effort to obtain a warrant because he believed that the law required that he obtain a blood sample under the circumstances presented to him.  The appellant was not transported to the hospital for medical care, the scene of the traffic stop was not very far from the booking facility, and transportation time was not a factor that could be said to lend to the exigency of the circumstances.  Furthermore, while the unavailability of a magistrate may affect whether an exigency exists to justify a warrantless blood draw, a magistrate is available twenty-four hours a day, every day at the Travis County central booking facility.  Therefore, based on these facts, the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.  Reversed and remanded.

Fort DWI Blood Draw Lawyers

No Per Se Exigency for Warrantless Blood Draw in DWI Cases

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U.S. Supreme Court holds:  “In drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify a blood test without a warrant.” 

Fort DWI Blood Draw LawyersMissouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425 (U.S. Apr 17, 2013). The Defendant was charged with DWI.  He filed a motion to suppress the results of a warrantless blood draw that was taken without a valid search warrant.  The trial court granted the motion to suppress.  The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the grant of the motion.  The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a split of authority.

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Missouri Supreme Court. Kennedy concurred. Roberts concurred in part and dissented in part. Thomas dissented. The question was whether the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream presented a per se exigency that justified an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases.  The Court held that it did not.  While the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, it does not do so categorically.

Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable has to be determined on the totality of the circumstances.  Any compelled intrusion into the human body implicates significant, constitutionally protected privacy interests.  The general importance of the interest in combating drunk driving does not justify departing from the warrant requirement without showing exigent circumstances that make securing a warrant impractical in a particular case.  Because the case was argued on the broad proposition that drunk-driving cases present a per se exigency, the Court was not provided with an adequate analytic framework for a detailed discussion of all the relevant factors to determine the reasonableness of acting without a warrant.

Dalworthington Gardens DWI

Blood Draw by a Police Officer: Bridging a Supreme Court Gap

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Dalworthington Gardens DWIIn Schmerber v. California, 348 U.S. 757 (1966), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a warrantless blood draw constitutes a search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The Court also laid out the two-part test for determining the legality of the search:

1) Whether the police were justified in requiring [the suspect] to submit to a blood test; and
2) Whether the means and procedures employed in taking [the suspect’s] blood respected relevant Fourth Amendment standards of reasonableness.

Schmerber, however, involved a blood draw performed by medical personnel at a hospital according to acceptable medical practice. In holding that the search was reasonable in that case, the Court conspicuously noted:

We are this not presented with the serious questions which would arise if a search involving use of a medical technique, even the most rudimentary sort, were made by other than medical personnel or in other than a medical environment – for example, if it were administered by police in the privacy of the stationhouse. To tolerate searches under these conditions might be to invite an unjustified element of personal risk of infection or pain.

Id. at 771-772 [emphasis added].

Well…what if a police officer draws the blood? At the stationhouse?

This happened in State v. Johnston.

A woman was arrested for suspicion of DWI and two Dalworthington Gardens officers drew her blood at the Dalworthington Gardens stationhouse. That the officers had a warrant did not convince the suspect to comply with the request to draw her blood. Ultimately, the officers had to strap her to a table using gauze to keep her still enough to draw her blood.

Although the officer that drew the blood was a prior EMT and had been certified by a local physician to draw blood, the trial court suppressed the blood evidence, finding that the search was unreasonable under Schmerber. Troubled by the fact that the officers did not ask the suspect for a general medical history before conducting the blood draw, the fact that the blood draw was not recorded, the fact that the suspect was restrained, and the fact that the department did not have any clear guidelines for using force during DWI blood draws, the 2nd District Court of Appeals (Fort Worth) agreed that the trial court appropriately suppressed the evidence.

The State appealed, arguing that the Court of Appeals’ interpretation was too narrow. The defendant also appealed, arguing that the Supreme Court intended a per se ban on police officers drawing blood from DWI suspects.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals began its analysis by recognizing that the “for the general population, the Supreme Court has determined that a blood test is a reasonable means in which to analyze an individual’s blood alcohol content.” And in this case, because there was no evidence that the suspect suffered from a medical condition that would have made another means of testing preferable, it was not unreasonable (under Schmerber) to draw the suspect’s blood.

The CCA also held that Chapter 724 of the Texas Transportation Code – the chapter that deals with the implied consent law and details who may draw a person’s blood – is inapplicable to a reasonableness determination in this case, because the officers had a warrant. The defendant argued that because a police officer is not listed as a person authorized to draw blood under Chapter 724, the blood draw was unreasonable.  Chapter 724, the CCA concluded, applies only in cases where there is no warrant.

Regarding the test for reasonableness, the CCA concluded that “the reasonableness of the manner in which a DWI suspect’s blood is drawn should be assayed on an objective, case-by-case basis in light of the totality of the circumstances. In this case, the totality of the circumstances indicate that the search was reasonable.

  •  The officer that drew the blood was a licensed EMT. (He had also been certified by a local physician, but the CCA didn’t care about that).
  • The Supreme Court (Schmerber) does not require that the draw be done in a hospital or clinic and several other jurisdictions agree.
  • The trial court concluded that the officers followed medically accepted procedures for drawing the blood.
  • The use of reasonable physical force to obtain a blood sample is permissible.

The CCA held that the blood draw performed at the stationhouse by the police officers was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and Schmerber.   I would agree (in this case).  I wonder how many police officers (especially ones that deal regularly with DWI) are getting in line to get EMT certified now.