By Hon. Scott Bergstedt
The case of Missouri v. McNeely, U.S. 133 S.Ct. 1552(2013) has caused many jurisdictions to require a search warrant in order to get a blood sample from a DUI defendant that refuses a breath test. With the addition of legal marijuana, the blood test is even more important as it is the best and often the only way to establish marijuana impairment.
It can take a significant amount of time to prepare a search warrant, contact a judge, (often after midnight) have the search warrant reviewed and approved and then take the defendant to the hospital in order to get the blood draw. This time factor becomes even more significant with the marijuana impaired drivers, since the active chemical dissipates significantly within 60 to 90 minutes.
Some states, for example Washington, have created a system to make the process easier for everyone. Washington’s program consists of a web-based standalone system housed by the Washington State Patrol. The system is designed to be flexible enough to meet the needs of each individual jurisdiction and still meet the standards required by state and federal law. This system will be made available to other states wishing to establish a similar process.
The process starts with the officer logging into the server and opening a predesigned search warrant form. Once it is filled in he or she sends it to the server to go to the “on call” judge. The judge will receive notice a search warrant is ready and will log on to the server and review the warrant. If approved, it is automatically forwarded back to the officer to serve. The process is streamlined, practical and has built-in menus and conditions to minimize errors.
More and more jurisdictions around the country will likely be implementing similar systems in order to keep up with the growing demand for immediate response to certain issues, especially those of a time-sensitive nature, such as suspected impaired driving issues.