Appeals court’s rulings limit warrantless blood draws


The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals delivered three rulings Wednesday that essentially gutted a portion of the state law that allowed police in certain circumstances to draw blood from suspected drunken drivers without a warrant.

The court ruled that police can no longer rely on portions of the Texas Transportation Code that say they don’t need a warrant if a driver has two previous convictions for driving while intoxicated or if the driver had caused a serious injury.

One case reviewed by the court involved a suspected drunken driver who was involved in a 2011 crash that sent two people to the hospital. The driver, Gina Roop, refused sobriety tests and didn’t consent to police taking a blood sample.

However, at the Travis County Jail, the Austin police officer who detained her ordered her blood drawn, which indicated Roop’s blood alcohol level was 0.276, more than three times the legal limit. Roop tried to have the blood test suppressed in her case, but a judge ruled against that. She later pleaded guilty to felony driving while intoxicated.

One of the three rulings Wednesday voided her conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that blood could only be taken without a warrant if a police officer was in a situation in which a warrant couldn’t be obtained before the driver’s blood alcohol level returned to normal. In Roop’s case, a magistrate was on call at the time of her arrest, but the officer made no attempt to get a warrant.

The other two rulings reaffirmed orders from lower courts suppressing blood samples in criminal trials that had been taken without a warrant. Those cases relied on a portion of Texas law that says taking blood without a warrant is permitted if the driver has two previous convictions of driving while intoxicated.

The defense attorney in one of those two cases, Austin attorney Joe James Sawyer, said the rulings were expected. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling had essentially voided Texas laws that allowed police to take blood without a warrant.

“It’s a fictive construct that seeks to walk around the Fourth Amendment,” Sawyer said of the implied consent laws.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported which government agency prosecuted the three cases. While the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals’ website names a different agency, the Travis County District Attorney’s office handled the cases.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Here’s what we’re watching at today’s Austin City Council meeting
Here’s what we’re watching at today’s Austin City Council meeting

Today is the Austin City Council’s last general meeting of 2017, with a lengthy agenda of items officials hope to tackle before the council takes a six-week winter break. After initially agreeing to the idea, council members may vote for good to waive $6.8 million in permit fees for the first phase of the state’s Texas Capitol Complex plan...
Blake Farenthold won’t seek re-election amid sexual harassment claims
Blake Farenthold won’t seek re-election amid sexual harassment claims

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold won’t seek re-election, less than a week after a House committee opened an investigation into sexual harassment claims from a former aide. Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, made the announcement Thursday morning on his campaign Facebook page. “I’d never served in public office before. I had no idea how to run...
Woman evicted days before her 94th birthday, jailed when she refuses to leave, police say
Woman evicted days before her 94th birthday, jailed when she refuses to leave, police say

A 93-year-old Eustis woman was in jail Wednesday night after being arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her home at National Church Residences’ Franklin House after being evicted, police said. Juanita Fitzgerald was jailed just days before her 94th birthday on Friday. According to a Eustis Police Department arrest report, Fitzgerald had been...
Restaurant employee used Snapchat to track teen customers, police say
Restaurant employee used Snapchat to track teen customers, police say

Police in Alpharetta, Georgia, have arrested a restaurant employee accused of using Snapchat to stalk two teenage girls. Jason Porras, 23, is charged with enticing a minor for indecent purposes. “Someone had been randomly reaching out to her on social media and over time had sent her inappropriate messages,” the father of one of the girls...
FORECAST: Cold front to bring highs in 50s, rain chances this weekend
FORECAST: Cold front to bring highs in 50s, rain chances this weekend

Thursday forecast for Austin: Temperatures across the Austin area will once again remain seasonable, with highs expected to reach into the mid-60s across the area.  However, a cold front expected to arrive Thursday morning will bring a new dose of cooler air that will slowly sink in, which will set the stage for a chilly overnight as temperatures...
More Stories