New Search Warrant Laws

One of the new changes to Tennessee law that goes into effect July 1, 2014 is a law that allows the use of electronic search warrants. Previously the procedure required the person requesting the search warrant to personally appear in front of the issuing judge or magistrate. Thanks to modern day technology, this outdated procedure is no more. And the area of law I see impacted most by this revolutionary change is DUI.

This law does not change the requirements for a valid warrant supported by sufficient probable cause. It just allows the search warrant to be done electronically. The officer seeking a search warrant can send it by electronic means or facsimile transmission to the signing judge or magistrate. The officer does have to swear to the warrant by recorded audio and the magistrate or judge has to see the affiant by video swear to the affidavit. This can be accomplished by phone apps like Skype or Face Time.

This will have big implications in the DUI area. Because it makes it easier for an officer to seek a search warrant, and in a more timely fashion, I expect that you will see officers use this law to obtain blood samples from people arrested for DUI, even when they refuse to take a blood or breath test. The old days of refusing to blow and being charged only with the implied consent violation will be replaced with test refusals followed by blood samples obtained as a result of electronic search warrants.

What does this mean? Now when you refuse to take a test, the state will, in most instances, still get its blood sample to use against you and you could still be found guilty of implied consent violation. In the past, a person typically said "No," to a blood or breath test and that was it. An Implied Consent Violation was added to the DUI charge and later on, the Assistant District Attorney had to make the decision of whether or not to amend the charge to reckless driving without the benefit of knowing the Defendant's blood alcohol level. Now in most cases I expect that officer will have the blood test regardless of whether or not the Defendant consents. Some officers won't go that extra step, but most probably will.

End result: More blood tests means fewer reckless driving convictions and more DUI convictions.

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