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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Oct 6, 2014

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Carlin C. Hess, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Bernard F. McEvoy, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Dean Wells.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

The defendant was indicted for driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), DUI per se, simple possession, leaving the scene of an accident, and DUI (second offense) after his vehicle struck a utility pole and small building. The defendant refused law enforcement’s request to test his blood in order to determine his blood alcohol content. The defendant’s blood was taken pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406(f)(2) (2012) and without a warrant, despite his refusal to submit to testing. The defendant moved to suppress evidence of his blood alcohol content, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated and that Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406(f)(2) was unconstitutional. The trial court granted the motion to suppress, concluding that the statute was unconstitutional. The State sought and was granted permission to appeal, arguing that the blood was taken under exigent circumstances and that the implied consent law functioned to satisfy the consent exception to the warrant requirement. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the blood draw violated the defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because it was not conducted pursuant to an exception to the warrant requirement, and we affirm the suppression of the evidence. We determine that, although the blood draw was taken pursuant to the statute, the statute did not dispense with the warrant requirement and is therefore not unconstitutional as applied to the defendant.