On April 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Missouri v. McNeely which makes clear that nonconsensual warrantless blood tests violated Mr. McNeely’s right to be free from unreasonable searches of his person.
In this case, Mr. McNeely was pulled over by a Missouri police officer for speeding and crossing the centerline. The officer observed that Mr. McNeely appeared to be driving under the influence of alcohol and asked Mr. McNeely to take a breath test, which Mr. McNeely refused. The officer then arrested Mr. McNeely and took him to a hospital for blood testing, which again Mr. McNeely refused. The officer did not have a warrant for the blood test, but he directed the lab technician to administer the blood test anyway.
During trial, Mr. McNeely moved to have the blood test result suppressed on the grounds that the taking of his blood was without a warrant and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The state argued that there were exigent circumstances because Mr. McNeely’s blood alcohol was rapidly dissipating and the officer needed to get an accurate blood test result immediately. The trial court agreed and concluded that the exigency exception did not apply. The case was appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment and reasoned that “in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does NOT constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” (Emphasis Added). The U.S. Supreme Court stated that this is because “[w]hen officers in drunk-driving investigations can reasonably obtain a warrant before having a blood sample drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so.”
In essence, the US Supreme Court has declined to put in place a rule that would allow officers to simply force an individual to give a blood test. Absent exigent or emergency circumstances, officers who are engaged in a routine stop, as in the case with Mr. McNeely, must first obtain a warrant before individuals suspected of driving under the influence are forced to submit to a blood test.
An attorney at the Bailey Law Corporation can answer any questions or concerns you may have about DUIs. If you have been charged with a DUI, time is of the essence and you need to act quickly to preserve your rights. The attorneys at the Bailey Law Corporation can help you protect your rights.
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