Medical Blood Draw Exception Based on Arizona Law

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution calls for citizens to be protected from unlawful seizures and searches. This protection also extends to the DUI blood draw, which requires either a search warrant to get a blood sample or the consent of the suspect to draw blood for a DUI investigation. Without a search warrant or the consent of the individual, a DUI blood draw is unlawful. But among the exceptions is the medical blood draw exception, which allows the police to request a sample of blood for an investigation for DUI if taken with a blood draw while the individual is getting medical care. To make the test results admissible as evidence in court, exigent circumstances must have played a role in the incident. In other words, there must be a reason to believe that the individual was driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Arizona Supreme Court made a ruling on a case where the defendant alleged that the DUI test was not to be used as evidence because it had been done in an unconstitutional manner. The suspect asserted that he did not agree to have medical treatment. The Arizona Supreme Court agreed that if the individual did not submit to the medical treatment of his or her own free will, the blood test was not constitutional. The Arizona Supreme Court outlined the four things that must be established by the State of Arizona to show that suspect did not have his rights violated by using the medical blood draw exception.

What Happened In Regards To The Arizona Case In Question?

In the case in question, there was a serious auto accident in which first responders encountered the driver incoherent, screaming, and delirious. The crash resulted in the death of a pedestrian and injuries to four others. The paramedics indicated that the individual had a head wound and wouldn’t cooperate with the first responders. The driver said that he wanted to be left alone, but the paramedics disregarded those requests deciding the suspect was unable to act rationally and was confused because of injuries suffered in the crash.

The suspect was restrained by paramedics and transported by ambulance to a hospital where he was sedated. While getting medical care, a blood test was performed so he could be treated. At the hospital, an officer requested a blood sample for a DUI investigation without a search warrant. The blood test suggested that the driver had methamphetamine as well as an active heroin metabolite in his system. The defendant was then charged with second-degree murder, four counts of endangerment, and narcotic possession or use. The defense filed a motion indicating the blood test was not constitutional as per the medical blood draw exception, so it should not be used as evidence in court.

Does the Arizona Constitution Let An Individual Control His or Her Own Medical Care?

The Court made note that an individual’s right to make decisions about his or her own medical treatment is protected by both the United States Constitution as well as the Arizona Constitution. It was pointed out that the U.S. Constitution gives a person the right to refuse medical care while the state constitution gives a person the right to due process when making decisions about medical care. The court ruled there must be a standard that the state shows that the blood sample was drawn in accordance with the suspect’s rights involving making their own medical decisions.

When a defendant is delirious or unconscious, it might be possible for the medical providers to get the consent of the individual. There is an exception for unconsciousness under A.R.S. 28-1321 (C), which allows medical care to proceed if exigent circumstances and probable cause both exist. The overall totality of the circumstances must be considered. The Court determined that it fell on the state to prove that if the patient couldn’t provide consent, there would have to be voluntarily implied or express consent for the treatment of the defendant. In this case, it was determined that the blood draw was not constitutional and could not be submitted as evidence. If you are facing DUI charges, consult with an Arizona criminal law attorney.