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Warrant Not Required When Hospital Initiates Toxicology Test

Posted on in Criminal Law
Warrant Not Required When Hospital Initiates Toxicology TestA recent Illinois appellate court decision gained attention because it questioned the constitutionality of a state law that allows police to forcibly obtain a blood or urine sample after a person is arrested for driving under the influence. The court remanded a DUI conviction because police forced the defendant to provide samples without presenting a warrant, even though they had ample time to obtain one. The court stated that the Illinois law violates the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it allows police to conduct a warrantless search without needing to prove urgency. While it was a win for DUI defendants in the state, the decision applies only when specific circumstances occur. There are still scenarios where prosecutors can legally use results from blood or urine tests administered without a warrant.

Recent Example

In the case of People v. Sykes, the defendant was convicted on charges of driving under the influence of cannabis and child endangerment. The defendant had crashed her car into a wall after a day at the beach with her children. A responding police officer described her as smelling of alcohol and being disoriented. After she was taken to the hospital for examination, police arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant refused a police request to submit to a blood or urine test, and two police officers waited outside her room while she received further treatment. A doctor asked a nurse to obtain a urine sample to determine whether the woman had any intoxicating substances in her system that would explain her disoriented state. The woman refused to give a sample, and the nurse used a catheter to obtain it. The nurse requested the help of several people to hold the woman down while inserting the catheter, including the two police officers. The urine sample showed the woman had cannabis and PCP in her system. Prosecutors obtained the test results months later, which they used to add the DUI cannabis charge.

Key Differences

The defendant argued that the urine sample should not have been admissible in court because it was obtained without a warrant. Both the trial court and appellate court rejected the argument, stating several reasons why the fourth amendment did not apply:

  • The hospital, not the police, ordered the urine sample;
  • The woman was incapable of giving consent because of her mental state;
  • The hospital did not require her consent because the test was deemed medically necessary;
  • The police officers' involvement in holding her still was not police action because the nurse asked for their help; and
  • Prosecutors can request and use results from medical tests that were not obtained with a warrant.

DUI Testing

Police cannot force you to submit to a warrantless toxicology test without proving an urgent need to forgo the warrant. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney with Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will protect your rights during your DUI trial. To schedule an appointment, call 630-260-9647.


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