SUPREME COURT RULES IN DUI CASE – BLOOD TEST REQUIRES WARRANT

The U. S. Supreme Court Rules That Warrant Required For Blood Test In DUI Case

The United States Supreme Court ruled that, in the normal DUI case, and under normal circumstances, the police must obtain a warrant in order to get a blood test.  In Missouri v. McNeely, the Court held that the mere fact that a person’s body was metabolizing alcohol does not constitute exigent circumstances which would excuse the 4th Amendment warrant requirement.

In this DUI case, McNeely was pulled over by a state trooper for DUI.  McNeely refused to submit to a breath test on the scene and again once he was taken to the police station.  The trooper then took McNeely to the hospital and over McNeely’s objection ordered a blood test.

The Court held that McNeely’s DUI case was “unquestionably a routine DWI case.”  Further, the Court held that the taking of a blood test was an intrusion into the human body which was protected by the 4th Amendment, and therefore subject to the requirement for a warrant.

The Court noted that in a DUI case, the level of alcohol in a person’s system declines over time, and therefore, delay in obtaining a blood sample my adversely affect the validity of the test as to its ability to show blood alcohol at the time the person is driving.  However, the Court noted that this, in and of itself does not mean that the Court should depart from the case-by-case analysis of the circumstances.

The Court held that in a DUI case, where police officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the 4th amendment mandates that the police obtain a warrant.

The Court held that there could be a case where the circumstances create a situation where the warrant requirement are excused.  The Court, however, refused to adopt the State’s position establishing a categorical exception to the warrant requirement in cases of blood samples in a DUI case.

Essentially, the Court held that under normal circumstances the fact that a person’s blood alcohol level may drop due to the metabolizing of alcohol will not justify an exception to the warrant requirement as a general rule.  However, the Court also held that under the right set of circumstances, a warrant may not be needed.

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