People v. Woodard: OWI Blood Draws, Consent, and Search Laws

In the case of People v. Woodard, the defendant argued that her withdrawn consent after an OWI blood draw meant the Michigan State Police could not analyze her blood without a warrant. The Court of Appeals did not agree.

What Happened in People v. Woodard

Ms. Woodard was charged with Operating While Intoxicated-third offense and Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License.

A police officer pulled Ms. Woodard over for technical license plate violations. However, when the officer approached the car, he believed Ms. Woodard to be intoxicated based on her appearance of bloodshot and watery eyes, unsteadiness, and smell of intoxicants.

The officer requested Ms. Woodard take a blood test and she consented to the blood draw. Prior to the blood analysis at the Michigan State Laboratory, Ms. Woodard’s skilled counsel sent the MSP a letter stating her consent to have the blood analyzed was withdrawn, and demanded further testing cease. The letter demanded the prosecutors, police, and lab techs involved get a search warrant before conducting analysis of the blood.

The laboratory went ahead with testing the blood, which revealed a blood alcohol content of .212.

The Law and Arguments

Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of the blood draw, arguing that while there was initially consent, consent was revoked prior to testing. Without a warrant, the continued search would be unlawful.

The legal analysis hinges on the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits searches without warrants or a valid exception.

Consent to search is one such valid warrant exception. A person may revoke consent at any time. However, revoked consent does not invalidate everything found during the consented search. Once consent is revoked the police must stop searching. A continued search after consent revocation may be justified if something found during the consented search can justify a continued warrantless search.

At Issue

The issue here is the government’s conduct in performing the blood draw and analyzing the blood for evidence of blood alcohol content. Defendant argued there were two searches here. The first search was when the blood is drawn and the second search is when the blood was analyzed. The prosecution argued that the search was complete once the blood was drawn.

Therefore the issue before the Court came to be whether the analysis of the blood constitutes a search.

Is The Blood Analysis a Search?

The Court decided that a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their blood alcohol content within a blood sample given to the police to determine the person’s BAC. Therefore, the Court said, the blood analysis was not a search. A person cannot revoke consent to analyze the blood because it is not a search.

The Court relied on persuasive authority which stated a person may not revoke consent to a blood test once blood has been drawn, and persuasive authority that blood work has no independent significance from the Fourth Amendment.

The Court said these ideas were strengthened by the Michigan Implied Consent Statute.

In The End

The implication from this case is that a person subject to a blood draw will not be able to prevent blood from being tested by withdrawing consent. Had the Court of Appeals ruled the other way, then DUI practice would have been significantly changed.

A person could impede the police investigation by forcing the police to obtain a warrant in every blood draw, consent or not. This would slow down the police ability to investigate DUIs and inevitably lead to situations where police either could not obtain a warrant or would miss the warrant step, and be unable to test the blood.

The motion by defendant in this case was very creative, with far-reaching implications had the case gone the other way.

Call us at 734.883.9584

Call Sam Bernstein at 734.883.9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor DUI Attorney.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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