Colorado DUI Case Goes All the Way to Supreme Court
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A Colorado DUI case involving a drunk driver who hit another vehicle is making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but because of a violation of constitutional rights the jury may never know he was nearly three times over the legal limit.
On May 30, 2012, Jack Schaufele smashed into an oncoming car. Responding officers reported Schaufele was a bit disoriented, but believed his confusion was a result of the accident. It wasn't until Schaufele was in the hospital that one of the officers smelled alcohol and took Schaufele’s blood without a warrant. The state judge ruled Schaufele’s blood sample was not admissible in court, but other states are petitioning to have the ruling overturned.
If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to pick up the case, the results will have national implications. If the Supreme Court judge sides with the prosecutors, police officers involved in a suspected DUI case will be allowed to take blood samples without a warrant.
“The question is when there are exceptions to search and seizure without a judge looking over the police officer’s shoulder,” said David Beller, president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, who is not connected to the case.
Schaufele’s attorney, Daniel Foster, agrees with the initial ruling, which declares the blood draw was taken unconstitutionally.
“We agree with the protections the Supreme Court has put into place as it related to the Fourth Amendment,” Foster said. “We believe if the Arapahoe District Attorney is successful, that it will only negatively impact the Fourth Amendment rights of every citizen, not only in Colorado, but in the country.”
Normally a warrant is required to draw blood, but prosecutors believe an exception should be made for police officers who need to take blood in an expedient manner, such as in suspected DUI cases.
“The officer is unlikely to know precisely when the suspect consumed alcohol or how much; all he knows is that critical evidence is being steadily lost,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “Fire can spread gradually, but that does not lessen the need and right of the officers to respond immediately.”
The Supreme Court has yet to decided whether they will accept the case or not, but could announce as early as January.