Archive for April 16th, 2012

State Supreme Court: No Forced Blood Draws

Monday, April 16th, 2012

I’ve written in the past about the increasingly common practice of cops to pin DUI suspects down and forcefully withdraw blood from them.  In some cases the needle is wielded by medical staff — and in others by the cops themselves.  See Taking Blood by Force, Forced Blood Draws by Cops in Back SeatForced Blood Draws by Cops Spreading and Forced Blood Draws by Cops: Constitutional?  

How far will the courts permit these kinds of police state tactics?  One state supreme court has just drawn the line:
 

Illinois Court Blocks Forced Draw From Motorist

Chicago, IL.  April 16
– An increasing number of states allow police to use any level of force needed to take blood from a motorist accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). In Ohio and Texas this procedure is explicitly authorized by statute. In Washington, the state Supreme Court decided to sanction the practice on its own authority. Last Tuesday, the Illinois Court of Appeals was unwilling to take that extreme step.

A three-judge panel upheld a trial court’s determination to suppress the evidence created when police held Jacqueline Farris down and forcibly drew her blood. On May 12, 2009 at around 10:30pm, Officer Kevin Orms arrived at the scene of an accident in the village of Bradley and found Farris behind the wheel of one of the vehicles involved. She smelled of alcohol. Orms had her taken to the hospital where he asked for consent to draw her blood. Farris refused. Officer Orms then ordered a nurse to take the blood by force. Three personnel were required to hold Farris down because she resisted.

Lab results showed the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the Farris sample was estimated at 0.285, but a lower court threw out the evidence as inadmissible. Under state law, forcible blood extraction is only authorized when a driver causes death or the personal injury of another driver, passenger or pedestrian.

Prosecutors argued that the officer had probable cause to suspect Farris of being drunk, and there was not time to obtain a warrant before the alcohol would dissipate. In agreeing with the lower court, the appellate majority cited a 2005 state Supreme Court precedent that allowed testing without consent in cases of death or injury but did not touch on cases where no injuries occurred.

"In Jones our supreme court was quite clear that there is no practical need for physical force in obtaining bodily fluid samples since the Vehicle Code eliminates any advantage a DUI arrestee might hope to gain from refusing chemical testing," Judge William E. Holdridge wrote for the majority. "As the Jones court noted, the defendant’s refusal to comply with the request for a sample, in and of itself, is sufficient to justify a statutory summary suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license, the purpose of which is to protect the public from intoxicated motorists."  People v. Farris.


This court prohibited forced blood draws in a medical setting.  Other courts, however, have actually approved the forceful extraction of blood by the cop himself — even when done in the back seat of a patrol car.  See, for example, Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood From You?
 

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