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Warrantless DUI Tests Head To Supreme Court

January 10, 2013  | 

Supreme Court justices showed unease Wednesday about letting police without a search warrant draw a blood sample from an unwilling drunken-driving suspect, but they also expressed sympathy for the urgency faced by officers in such traffic stops.

The justices heard arguments in a hot-button case on constitutional rights from Missouri, where authorities stuck a needle into the arm of handcuffed suspect Tyler McNeely.

The state, backed by the Obama administration, said it shouldn't have to wait for a magistrate's approval because blood-alcohol level diminishes after a person stops drinking. Mr. McNeely's lawyers said his Fourth Amendment protection against "unreasonable searches" was violated. They said 25 states explicitly require warrants for involuntary blood draws, suggesting the safeguard is workable.

Read the full Wall Street Journal story.

Comments (11)

Displaying 1 - 11 of 11

Dave Winstead @ 1/10/2013 4:55 PM

In Nevada, we have the implied consent law. Having to get a judge to sign off on a warrant, after you have to take the time to write the warrant, would certainly push an officer to the edge of the 2 hour time standard set by the state. If the officer was several miles out, like we usually are in our rural county, there would be no way to obtain a warrant and a blood draw within the time constraints. Of course this is what the DUI drivers and defense lawyers want but then they don't have to deal with the aftermath of those same drunk drivers when they kill and maim innocent people or themselves with their drunken forays. There is no constitutional right to drive, driving is a privilege. It is not too much to require that a driver give his implied consent for a legal blood or breath test if demanded when he exercises the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on the roads of this state, Missouri, or the United States.

CSUMB Mom @ 1/10/2013 7:01 PM

California, has a similar "implied Consent" law for DUI. Individuals that get behind the wheel of a 2500 lb. plus weapon after drinking to the point of being impaired are fully aware, in this writer's opinion, of what they are doing. Suspect Tyler McNeely is luck if he was the sole person involved in his DUI. As you point out dave-driving is a privilege not a right--maybe his drinking impaired that thought process.

crispianranger @ 1/10/2013 7:48 PM

Years ago I remember my police force didnt have breathilysers etc, we could only draw blood. If they refused the doctor would not go ahead. As a result, people used to look at our stats and say what great law abiding community we had, such low DUI rates!!!....We had lots of drivers charged with Careless, and Reckless driving offences though!!!!

Dennis CHP (retired) @ 1/10/2013 8:02 PM

When I began my career in law enforcement, urine and breath were the only two tests (other than the initial FSTs). Blood was an option, but only at the consent of the subj. Blood could be drawn with force under certian circumstances, but the force used to draw the sample could not, "...shock the connscious of the court." With one or two exceptions, all agencies in CA., including the CHP draw blood these days, and it's not an option for the offender. No warrant is needed and based on the members now sitting on the court, I highy doubt a warrant would be needed going forward.

BW @ 1/10/2013 10:56 PM

In Illinois, when you sign your driver's license, you explicitly consent. Don't want to be subject to medical DUI testing? Don't get a license.

Bob @ VA @ 1/11/2013 5:16 AM

Implied consent by operating a motor vehicle (as we have here in VA) or explicit consent when signing a driver's license (as BW says in IL) is the obvious answer. Our standard is testing within 3 hours. There's no reasonable time to get a warrant, especially in rural areas. I agree with Dennis, though, that the Justices as currently seated will not likely require one.

slanger @ 1/11/2013 6:02 AM

exigent circumstance and unnecessary expense.

Bill @ 1/11/2013 7:59 AM

I am a Lieutenant with a Municipal Deprtatment in the St. Louis area of Missouri and the State of Missouri also has an Implied Consent Law. I certainly hope that the Justices take the right stance and give us the ability to refrain from getting a search warrant. Missouri is truely the Show Me State and maybe we can show them, (Smiles). It is silly to have to get a warrant to draw blood from someone on a DWI case because of the Implied Conssent Law. It is a privilige to Drive a Motor Vehicle, NOT A RIGHT and you agree to the Implied Consent Law knowing that if the office has the Probable Cause to arrest you for DWI, you have to consent to the test.

Steve @ 1/11/2013 9:33 AM

Consent is always going to be an issue with various forms of searches. Here in NJ the consent search of a motor vehicles have become an issue so in response to that a few counties have implemented the "Telephonic Search Warrant". Call up the on-call Assistant Prosecutor and the Judge, explain the situation and request the warrant. If everywhere could get this procedure implemented in the various forms of searches, it would make things a whole lot easier. The public need to know that we're not going to stop our investigation just because when we ask to do it the nice way they say no.

Steve @ 1/11/2013 7:42 PM

Does anyone remember Schemerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966)

Matt @ 1/17/2013 7:16 AM

I think we have the best of both worlds here in VA. The law says that a person has consented to submit to a blood or breath test simply by virtue of being a motor vehicle operator (Implied Consent), but they also have the right to refuse to submit to those tests. However, the law also imposes an additional penalty for the "unreasonable refusal" to submit to the blood or breath test and those penalties are stiffer in the short run than if someone had actually taken the test. If a drunk driver submits to the test and the BAC is above limit and they are convicted, they are eligible for a restricted license while undergoing alcohol education and supervision. If they are convicted of unreasonably refusing to submit to the test the driver loses their license for a year with no restrictions allowed. Most of the time, the defendant will plead to the DUI and have the refusal charge nolle prosquie (sp?) so they can drive to work and other specific places allowed by the court.

If a person really does not want a needle in their arm it will become an officer and medical staff safety issue when it comes down to a fight. I've seen that in the hospitals before and it just isn't worth it. In my experience, a nurse will not try to take a blood sample if the person is going to be too combative anyway.

There are other ways around it anyway if the drunk is being treated for injuries in a crash and submits to blood work for medical purposes. We can then get a subpeona for the medical records and use that as evidence in court.

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