Forced Blood Draws – A Change Coming to DUI Prosecutions?

A very important case is before the US Supreme Court (Missouri v. McNeely), dealing with the legality of forced blood draws in the context of DUI prosecutions.

A brief primer: when issued a license in California, you give implied consent to submit either a breath or blood sample upon arrest for the suspicion of DUI. Pursuant to Vehicle Code 13353, refusal to submit to one of these chemical tests may result in a license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Needless to say, the issue of forced blood collection is a major concern with far reaching implications criminal defense attorneys defending DUI cases.

In San Mateo County, many judges focus on the manner in which the blood is collected in determining whether or not such evidence is admissible. Relying on the groundbreaking 1966 US Supreme Court decision in Schmerber v. California, the “exigent circumstances” of the body processing alcohol from the blood create an exception to the warrant requirement for the “seizure” of a defendant’s blood. As the US Supreme Court decides the McNeely case, it will surely reexamine the facts and rationale in Schmerber.

But what if you don’t want to, or are unable to provide such a sample? Can the police summon a phlebotomist to collect your blood without a warrant and without your consent? Can that evidence then be used against you? Depending on what happens in McNeely, we could see big changes in California DUI prosecutions. If you are fighting a San Mateo County DUI involving a forced blood draw, please contact me to discuss your legal options.

Victory in Redwood City Domestic Violence Jury Trial

Two weeks ago, after seven hours of deliberation, seven jury questions, and six rounds of votes, a jury acquitted my client of PC 245 (a)(4) felony assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury and hung on the lesser included offense of PC 240 simple assault. Two separate counts of PC 243(e)(1) domestic battery resulted in a hung jury and were dismissed the following week. The case had some bizarre facts and, at times, felt like a circus. My client spent roughly four months in jail to contest his innocence, so this victory was particularly sweet.

Putting on a jury trial, no matter the verdict, is draining. Trials require an undivided attention to detail, you must know the case inside and out. Who said what? When did they say it? Who did they say it to? What did they say? Have they ever said something different? Thorough case preparation is essential for truly “knowing” your case. My investigator also provided some real gems to attack the credibility of the complaining witness. Sometimes, such dedicated preparation still feels inadequate.

The vast majority of cases resolve without a court or jury trial, but you never forget the ones that go to trial. Entrusting your client’s freedom to 12 strangers, leaves you with a profound sense of confidence in the jury system when the verdict is “Not Guilty” . Our system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.