This seems like a major and far-reaching decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court issued this week. It is about South Dakota’s practice of drawing blood from drunk-driving suspects without their consent and without a warrant. The practice was founded on the principle in South Dakota case law that blood-alcohol content naturally dissipates and therefore evidence would be lost without taking the blood samples. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2013 in a case known as Missouri v. McNeely that the dissipation of blood-alcohol content doesn’t automatically mean law enforcement can draw blood without consent and without a warrant in all cases of suspected driving under the influence. This matter came to the South Dakota Supreme Court in an appeal filed by Donavan Craig Siers, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Minnehaha County in 2008. He refused to consent to a blood draw and he subsequently was placed in restraints so that his blood could be taken. The draw was performed without a warrant. He was found to have a BAC of .22 percent, more than double the DUI threshold in state law, and the BAC became the primary evidence against him. The state Supreme Court looked at two issues in his appeal.
The state’s five justices found that the McNeely decision “broke new ground” for South Dakota regarding warrantless drawing of blood in suspected drunk-driving cases. The justices stated that law enforcement can’t rely solely on the dissipation argument any longer.
The second issue considered by the justices was whether McNeely required South Dakota to apply the new rule retroactively. In considering that issue, the justices determined they need to apply a new test so they are consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court in another case known as Teague v. Lane. The South Dakota justices had been using what’s known as the Linkletter test on retroactivity; the U.S. Supreme Court replaced Linletter with Teague. In a previous decision the South Dakota justices declined to accept Teague. Now they have reversed that position and accept Teague because Linkletter was too subjective. Said the South Dakota court in its decision in the current case, “Teague stated that normally a new rule would not be retroactively applied once a defendant’s case had become final.” The justices added, “By applying the Teague test for retroactivity, this Court can better address concerns for finality, consistency, and uniformity—all by way of a simpler, more straightforward test. Moving forward, we therefore adopt the Teague rule.”
All of which led the state justices to decide the new McNeely standard regarding warrantless blood draws shouldn’t have retroactive application in South Dakota. Chief Justice David Gilbertson wrote the court’s opinion which was unanimous. “The new rule announced in McNeely did not place any form of individual conduct beyond the power of the State to proscribe. Nor was it a new watershed rule of criminal procedure. Thus, we answer the retroactivity question the same under the new standard as we would have under the old and determine that McNeely should not be given retroactive effect,” the chief justice stated.
Go here if you want to read the South Dakota Supreme Court’s full opinion.