Ruling on blood evidence impacts western Nebraska case

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A recent Supreme Court ruling is having a big impact on cases locally, and it's changing the way police officers and sheriff's deputies look at evidence.

A man was recently charged with DUI in Perkins County, but now a court is reducing his charges after suppressing blood evidence in the case, due to a supreme court ruling.

Justin Williams was pulled over on December 27, 2015 for driving under the influence, but asked a judge that the blood evidence taken be suppressed, because it was taken without his consent.

Court documents show Williams was driving on the shoulder of Highway 61.

He was later charged with DUI for driving with a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater.

Court documents show this was Williams' fourth DUI.

Williams and his attorney, Russ Jones, are citing a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Birchfield v. North Dakota.

On November 18th, Williams plead no contest to driving while under the influence. It's part of a plea deal arraigned after the judge agreed to suppress blood evidence taken without his consent. It lowers a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

james corth, williams lawyer: "My understanding is that a lot of law enforcement agencies and prosecutor offices are adjusting their approach to DUI investigations in light of this ruling so the applications might be limited," said James Corth, James Williams's lawyer.

The justices ruled that when someone is suspected of driving under the influence, law enforcement must obtain a warrant before taking that person's blood to test for impairment.

"Searching a person's body, it's just like searching a person's house. You have to have either consent or a warrant. In the past, they didn't have to have that. When they made the intrusion into your body, they didn't have to have a warrant, they could just do it based on at least the laws as they stood statutorily," Jones said.

According to the Perkins County Sheriff, in this particular case, blood evidence was taken because they were in between changing their breath test systems.

Sheriff Brueggeman said they usually do breath tests as opposed to blood tests because they are less invasive, however, he said that the blood tests are more accurate than the breath tests.

Williams was arrested in December of 2015, however, this Supreme Court ruling was not handed down until June of 2016.

Even after this ruling was handed down, in the future, the Perkins County Sheriff's Office said they can still administer blood tests, but now they just have to obtain a warrant first.

Williams will be appearing in court on January 20th at 11am for sentencing.

COURTESY: Supreme Court imaged used in our newscast is courtesy of John Hilliard / CC BY 2.0