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High Court: Warrantless DWI Blood Draws Are Unconstitutional

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.

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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."

The lesson from this ruling is clear: you might want to stay off the streets when Villareal's behind the wheel.

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