US Supreme Court ruling could mean DUI prosecution setbacks

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KINGSTON, Tenn. (WVLT) -- 16-year-old Amelia Keown died on her way home from school in Maryville last August. She was hit head-on by John Perkins. Investigators took blood at the scene.

"He had a toxic level of - almost lethal of Oxycontin, toxic level of Xanax, and then he had methamphetamines in his system," said Amanda Moore, Amelia's mother.

Last year in Tennessee, a law was passed enabling officers to do mandatory blood draws in certain circumstances, such as multiple offense DUIs, an accident with serious injuries, or if a child was in the car. But Frank Harvey, Deputy District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District, said a recent US Supreme Court ruling in the Missouri v. McNeely case has changed that. Blood draws now require a search warrant from a judge.

"The court addressed that - talking about how with current technology it's easier to get a search warrant. We're a rural district it's not that easy here, we don't have those capabilities," said Harvey.

He said the court left room for exceptions on a case-by-case basis, and although not having a judge available to issue a search warrant could qualify as an exception, he wouldn't want officers to risk going without one.

"The main danger is, particularly if you have a case with serious injury, death, what have you - if a draw is forced without a warrant, that evidence could be suppressed," said Harvey.

Amelia's mom is angry:

"By the time they get the search warrant, alcohol could have already dissipated out of their system. I guess the drug content could be not as strong, although it doesn't go as fast as alcohol does and people could get by with more than they're already getting by with," she said.

The US Supreme Court issued the ruling last week, saying forced blood draws are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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