SCOTUS HEARS DWI/DUI CASE INVOLVING FORCED BLOOD DRAWS AND THE 4TH AMENDMENT

January 20, 2013
By Lauren Johnson on January 20, 2013 10:33 AM |

The United States Supreme Court considered the 4th amendment implications of forced blood draws in DUI cases in the case of Missouri v. McNeely. The justices are considering whether forced blood draws violated the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

On October 3, 2010 Missouri state police officer Mark Winder observed Tyler McNeely driving above the posted speed limit. Upon making contact with McNeely, the officer observed that his eyes were red and glassy and that his breath smelled of alcohol. McNeely performed poorly on the administered Field Sobriety Tests and refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.

He was placed under arrest and transported to a hospital for a blood sample. The officer did not obtain a warrant from a judge before allowing the hospital to draw a sample. The blood test revealed that McNeely's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. Officer Mark Winder testified that in many similar cases that he sought to obtain a warrant from a judge before obtaining a blood draw. In most cases it took 20 minutes to an one hour to obtain the warrant. However, in this case he went ahead and did so without seeking a warrant.

The state charged McNeely with driving while intoxicated. He immediately moved to suppress the blood evidence, stating that it was obtained without a warrant. The trial court granted this motion. The state appealed. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred, it transferred the case to The Supreme Court of Missouri, which affirmed the trial court's decision.

The question at the core of the case is, can a forced blood draw be done without a search warrant? The Fourth Amendment states: The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause..

The Supreme Court justices indicated that a blood test is a very "intrusive" procedure and therefore a warrant could be required. The laws in each state vary but the questions raised at Oral Arguments were two-fold. First, is there enough "Probable Cause" to demand a blood sample without warrant? And are there "Exigent Circumstances" as the Respondent contends? The respondent stated that the declining blood alcohol levels by the minute are crucial and without a timely sample, sustaining a conviction for DWI/DUI would be more difficult, so it would fall under the scope of "Exigent Circumstances."

The decision by the SCOTUS is likely to affect DUI cases in Orange County and other counties throughout the country.


Attorney Lauren K. Johnson has represented many clients in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases. Contact us today to discuss your case or send a confidential email inquiry.