The recent arrest of a nurse in Salt Lake City for obstructing a criminal investigation has many people asking the same question - is it legal for the police to take my blood without receiving my permission?
According to nation wide news articles (Idaho Statesman article here) the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital's burn unit was informing officers of the hospital policy for allowing forced blood draws. The hospital policy only allowed blood draws by officers if the officers had a warrant, the patient had given consent, or the patient was under arrest. In this case, the officers had no warrant (not even probably cause), the patient was unconscious and unable to give consent, and the patient was not under arrest. In fact, the patient was the victim in a car crash. After the nurse repeatedly explained the policy, the officer grabbed her and pushed her out the doors. He handcuffed her and put her in his car. He had been instructed to arrest and charged her for obstructing a criminal investigation. She was never charged.
Despite what another officer in the video states, the law and the hospital's policy are aligned. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court ruled that warrantless blood tests were illegal. The case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, involved a man who refused to submit to a blood test to determine his blood alcohol concentration. At the time, North Dakota law made it a crime to refuse to submit to a BAC blood test. The Supreme Court decision overturned his conviction for refusing the test.
Lets make this clear: The officer was WAY out of line. He attempted to coerce the nurse into performing an illegal blood draw and when she refused he compounded his unethical behavior by performing an illegal arrest. This officer should be suspended, fired, or potentially even charged with a crime. Further, the department should be held accountable for this officer's actions.
The law in Idaho requires that law enforcement obtain a warrant or consent to perform a blood sample. If a person allows an officer to take a blood sample without obtaining a warrant, there is no problem. But, if a person does not consent or is incapable of consent (unconscious), then the officer must get a magistrate judge to sign a warrant. For more information on this warrant requirement, check out this Spokesman-Review article from 2014.
The public can not become apathetic when issues like this arise. We can not shrug this off just because it happened to someone else - An abuse against one citizen must be viewed as an abuse against all of us. Don't let anyone convince you that standing up for individual rights makes you anti-law enforcement, it doesn't. The founding fathers to our country knew what we seem to have forgotten: unless citizens stand and prevent their government from doing so, it will take and abuse power. With every incident like this that goes unchallenged, unprotested, or forgotten a little piece of your civil rights are taken away, maybe never to return. Police abuse of power is worse kind of crime; it is a crime committed by a person we trust to protect us.