Texas High Court of Criminal Appeals Bars Police from Obtaining Blood & Breathalizer Tests without a Warrant

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court of appeal on matters of criminal law, upheld a lower trial court ruling that found the state’s law allowing law enforcement officers to obtain nonconsensual Breathalyzer tests or blood samples from DWI suspects to be unconstitutional. Specifically, if the DWI suspect had at least two prior DWI convictions, they could be forced to submit to be Breathalyzer or have their blood drawn against their will.

At issue is the case of David Villarreal of Nueces (Nuts) County. He was pulled over by a state trooper in 2012 for suspected DWI. He had been previously convicted in 2001 and 2005. The state forcibly obtain a blood sample, found him above the legal blood alcohol limit, and sought to put Villarreal behind bars for 25 years. His defense attorney argued that the Texas law authorizing his blood sample to be forcibly drawn should not be admissible in his trial. His attorney cited a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said officers wanting a blood or Breathalyzer test taken from a DWI suspect must have a warrant in hand. The trial court concurred and overturned the state law.

Naturally, law enforcement and prosecutors appealed the ruling forcing it be considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In the end, the court concurred with the trial court’s prior ruling effectively overturning the state law. As for Villarreal, his blood sample was ruled inadmissible. This is a ruling Stephen Williams wine will need to take a little bit of time with before it becomes the norm. Texas had made broad use of the nonconsensual blood sample law to crack down on DWIs during holiday seasons.

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