State Supreme Court Issues Significant Rulings on HGN Evidence and Blood Draws in DWI Cases

Two of last week’s opinions from the North Carolina Supreme Court address significant legal issues arising in impaired driving cases. In State v. Godwin, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals, holding that the trial court was not required to explicitly recognize a law enforcement officer as an expert witness before the officer could testify to the results of a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.  In State v. Romano, the supreme court upheld the court of appeals’ determination that the withdrawal of blood from an unconscious impaired driving defendant violated the Fourth Amendment, notwithstanding a state statute authorizing this practice.

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State v. Granger Adds to State’s Missouri v. McNeely Jurisprudence

State v. Granger, decided last week, is the latest case in which the North Carolina Court of Appeals has considered, in light of Missouri v. McNeely, __ U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), whether an exigency supported the warrantless withdrawal of an impaired driving suspect’s blood over the person’s objection. Readers may recall that the … Read more


Avoiding Ignition Interlock by Pleading Guilty

As state crime lab backlogs increase, it takes longer and longer for blood drawn in connection with impaired driving cases to be tested. In some of these cases, the State may opt to proceed to trial without the results.  And sometimes defendants are eager to plead guilty before such blood is tested. A defendant who … Read more


Supreme Court Weighs in on Nonconsensual, Warrantless Blood Draws in DWI Cases

The United States Supreme Court decided Missouri v McNeely yesterday, holding that in impaired driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant. The high court thus resolved the split among state courts regarding whether its … Read more


No, Virginia, there is no implied consent

I’m eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Missouri v. McNeely. I want to know whether the exigency created by the dissipation of alcohol in the body, without more, permits the police to compel the withdrawal of blood from an impaired driving suspect without a warrant. But there’s one thing I already know: The legal … Read more

Lance Armstrong

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has recently confessed to using performance enhancing drugs during each of his seven Tour de France victories. Public discussion has focused on whether his apology, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, was genuine or not. I want to consider whether his conduct was criminal. (By “conduct,” I mean the doping and related … Read more


State v. Wilson: Constitutional Violations Associated with DWI Blood Draw Not a Basis for Dismissal of Charges

Kelvin Wilson’s DWI case made the front page of Lawyer’s Weekly last January.  Wilson was arrested for impaired driving in Winston-Salem and taken to the hospital. When he physically resisted having his blood drawn, a police officer sat on him to facilitate the extraction. The blood evidence was suppressed (with the State’s agreement) at Wilson’s … Read more


The Requirement that Medical Providers Withdraw Blood in Implied Consent Cases

WRAL news reported last week that a Selma police officer had been placed on administrative leave after he allegedly handcuffed an emergency room nurse who refused to withdraw blood from a defendant suspected of impaired driving. The nurse reportedly was released from handcuffs after Smithfield police arrived, and charges against the suspected impaired driver were … Read more


The Forcible Extraction of Blood in Impaired Driving Cases: How Much Force Is Too Much Force?

The lead story in the January 30, 2012 issue of North Carolina Lawyer’s Weekly was headlined “Necessary’s Restraint:  The night police officer Richard Necessary sat on a drunk-driving suspect in order to get a blood sample might prove to be the night when courts realized enough is enough.” The newspaper reported that a superior court … Read more


Warrantless Blood Draws and the Fourth Amendment (Again)

A recent en banc decision from the Supreme Court of Missouri adds to the growing divide among state appellate courts regarding whether the exigency created by the dissipation of blood-alcohol levels is sufficient, by itself, to render a nonconsensual, warrantless blood draw from a person arrested for impaired driving a reasonable search and seizure under … Read more