A federal court in Arizona has reached a conclusion that is in apparent conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court on the question of searches by authorities.
The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that police may not forcibly take blood from a drunken driving suspect without a warrant.
The reasoning was that the Fourth Amendment requires judicial authorization for such an invasive act – unless it’s an emergency situation such as where there would be an immediate danger.
The ruling rejected the argument of state officials who asked the court to establish that all cases of drunken driving constitute “exigent circumstances” so that officers can draw blood without a warrant.
However, just about the same time, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed a lawsuit brought on behalf of Phoenix police officers who were forced to give DNA samples in the case of a slain police officer, Sean Drenth.
In December 2012, Judicial Watched filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the officers, alleging that Phoenix Police Department officers’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated by requiring them to surrender their DNA.
Judge Susan R. Bolton wrote in her opinion dismissing the case, “… the court is not convinced that under either the Arizona statute or the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, plaintiffs had to be suspected of committing the crime in order to be searched without a warrant.”
That case, Bill, et al v. Brewer, et al., involved the extraction of DNA from police officers using a cotton swab in their mouth, and the judge found no violation.
But a very nearly identical question before the U.S. Supreme Court drew the conclusion that the forced extraction of a person’s blood constituted “an invasion of bodily integrity [that] implicated an individual’s personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy.”
The decision said therefore if it is not an emergency and there is no warrant, it would violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said he was “taken aback” by the Arizona court ruling.
“When one considers that the ‘search’ required the officers to open their mouths and have them swabbed for a DNA sample, the district court’s decision seems rather extraordinary – especially in light of the Supreme Court decision recently requiring search warrants for most alcohol blood tests in DUI investigations,” Fitton said.
“Not only were officers Bill, Hanania, and Malpass not ‘suspected of committing a crime,’ they were in the very process of actually trying to solve one,” Fitton added.
Each of the three officers involved in the case responded to an “officer down” call on October 18, 2010, but none of them came into direct contact with the slain officer, his weapons or vehicle.
Unknown male DNA was found on the vehicle and weapons, investigators said.
The PPD confirmed numerous times that none of the plaintiffs was a suspect in the officer’s death.
But investigators began requesting DNA samples for “exclusionary purposes” from all officers who responded to the “officer down” call.
The three officers in the case declined to offer up their DNA.
Several months later, they received a memo demanding they comply with the DNA request.
They again declined.
Then, in August 2011, the PPD requested and received orders from the Maricopa County Superior Court to detain the three officers.
They were subsequently detained and forced to give samples against their will.