What Evidence Can Authorities Search Your Blood For in the Context of Criminal Vehicular Operation?
A recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision, State v. Fawcett, No. A15-0938, (Minn. Aug. 24, 2016), held that probable cause supported the search of Defendant’s blood and the search permitted testing for both alcohol and controlled substances. To fully understand the impact of this decision we must first look at the requirements for a search warrant and then examine how they apply to the facts of this case.
Search Warrant Requirements
Under the Fourth Amendment, search warrants must be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate (judge) who determines whether probable cause exists. Therefore, in order to obtain a warrant, law enforcement officers must show that there is probable cause to believe a search is justified. Officers must support this showing with sworn statements (affidavits). The affidavits must describe in particularity the place they will search and the items they will seize.
State v. Fawcett
The two issues in Fawcett were: (1) whether there was probable cause to search Defendant’s blood for controlled substances under the warrant; and (2) whether the search warrant satisfied the particularity clause. In other words, whether it particularly described the items to be seized.
The State charged Defendant with criminal vehicular operation, what is now Minn. Stat. § 609.2113, subd. 2(2), for injuring a person while driving a motor vehicle in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Defendant caused a vehicle accident injuring the other driver. The police arrived and while interacting with Defendant, the officers smelled alcohol on her breath, and she admitted that she had consumed “two to three beers” earlier. While she was being transported the hospital the officers applied for a search warrant.
The search warrant called for a search of Defendant’s blood for “evidence of the crime of criminal vehicular operation/homicide.” The supporting affidavit specifically stated: