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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Warrantless Blood Tests for DUI Suspects in Missouri Case

Categories: Crime, Politics

dui stop.jpg
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Cops cannot force suspected drunk drivers to give a blood sample without a warrant, according to a ruling this week in a Missouri case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The decision has broad implications for Fourth Amendment rights, says Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, which represented a Cape Girardeau man in the suit.

"This will affect the whole country," he tells Daily RFT.

In the decision, full version on view below, the justices sided with Missouri resident Tyler McNeely, who was subjected to a blood test when officers stopped him on suspicions of driving under the influence.

This decision, the ACLU says, establishes that, unless there is a true emergency, the police must take the time to obtain a warrant for a DUI blood test, with a decision that reaffirms constitutional protections against "unreasonable searches and seizures by the government."

"It's an important Fourth Amendment case," Rothert says. "You can certainly enforce laws without abandoning constitutional rights.... We are pretty pleased."

The decision, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, says:

When 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....

Moreover, because an officer must typically take a DWI suspect to a medical facility and obtain a trained medical professional's assistance before having a blood test conducted, some delay between the time of the arrest or accident and time of the test is inevitable regardless of whether a warrant is obtained....

Finally, the government's general interest in combating drunk driving does not justify departing from the warrant requirement without showing exigent circumstances that make securing a warrant impractical in a particular case.

Last year, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that drunk driving cases here are not an exception to the Fourth Amendment and Rothert says that this Supreme Court ruling establishes that protection more broadly.

"The rest of the country will be following the Missouri rule," he says.

Here's the full decision.

Mcneely Supreme Court Decision

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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6 comments
Roy Jacobs
Roy Jacobs

I am against them forcing a blood sample. This is a medical procedure. I have the right to refuse a medical procedure.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

cops already have way too much power & gun power if you meet them & they are having a bad day...lots of luck

Ryan Mackley
Ryan Mackley

Those same cops also harass and threaten healthcare workers with an arrest if they don't get that blood sample. This puts the nurse in a position of a lawsuit from the patient for battery if he/she gets the sample or potentially being arrested for not getting the sample.

Christopher Harrison
Christopher Harrison

This seems like a no-brainer to me. The story doesn't say why they wanted blood instead of breath or a field sobriety test, especially since refusal to take one of those is an automatic conviction.

12judges
12judges

Excellent decision.  More good news for the bill of rights.

jumpinjezebel
jumpinjezebel

@12judges You mean finally one for the people. Now they need to stop the DUI checkpoints where they stop 600 people for no reason and find 2 DWI people who are barely over the limit usually. They make up the costs by writing all kinds of tickets for plates, lights, and every other excuse to bring in a buck. When will they figure out that these 600 people now hate them??

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