Supreme Court Questions Warrantless DUI Blood Tests
The United States Supreme Court heard arguments on January 9, 2012 regarding a drunk driving case in Missouri and conducting DUI blood tests without a warrant. The Supreme Court will be bringing into question the ability of police officers to order blood tests for unwilling drunk drivers without first trying to obtain a warrant. Law enforcement has made a concentrated effort to crack down on drunk drivers with the use of new technologies and those efforts can be attributed to a 60% drop in DUI related fatalities in the last 20 years. The case is out of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri where Tyler McNeely was arrested for DUI and forced to have his blood drawn at a nearby hospital. McNeely was pulled over by an officer after he was seen speeding and swerving in and out of lanes. When the officer began questioning McNeely, he noticed several symptoms of alcohol intoxication and conducted a field sobriety test.
McNeely not only failed the sobriety tests, but refused to submit a breathalyzer test, so the officer drove him to a hospital and had a blood alcohol test performed. It was found that McNeely had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .154%, almost double the state’s legal limit. The officer thought that if he had waited for a warrant before having McNeely’s blood drawn, potential evidence as to his true BAC level would be lost. Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Why shouldn’t that determination be made case by case? … And if it would have taken too long, then it’s okay without a warrant. If it wouldn’t have taken that long, it’s bad“. McNeely won his case in the Missouri Supreme Court that determined it violated his constitutional right protecting him against unreasonable searches and seizures. While half of US states currently ban warrantless DUI blood tests, the US Supreme Court is expected to have a decision on this particular case by summer.