Just in time for the holiday weekend, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a lower court's ruling that warrantless blood-drawing in DWI cases is unconstitutional.
In a split 5-4 decision Wednesday, the majority justices disagreed with prosecutors' argument that driving on Texas roads is a privilege -- not a right -- and that "the driving public" is presumed to have read the statute outlining no-refusal blood draws. (We must say, there are plenty of roads in Houston that don't really feel like a "privilege" to drive on.)
The case stemmed from felony DWI charges against a Neuces County nuisance named David Villarreal, who was stopped for suspicion of DWI and found to have "multiple prior convictions" for DWI as well.
The arresting officer argued at an evidentiary hearing that he did not believe he had to obtain a warrant to draw Villareal's blood "in light of the mandatory-blood-draw provision" in the Texas Transportation Code that requires a blood or breath sample anytime someone's been convicted of at least two prior DWIs.
But the majority justices found that the Code's provisions "do not, taken by themselves, form a constitutionally valid alternative to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement."
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The lesson from this ruling is clear: you might want to stay off the streets when Villareal's behind the wheel.