New DUI News: Forced Blood Draw Ruled Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Law enforcement officers can no longer force a suspect suspected of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) to submit to a forced blood draw without a court order authorizing the search.

In all too many DUI arrests, drivers have been forced to submit to a physical insertion of a medical syringe into his or her body and blood taken involuntarily even if the arrested person had already agreed to submit to a breath test.  This decision ends this brutal and unnecessary intrusion into the person of one arrested for DUI.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri vs. McNeely arises from a DUI arrest in which police claimed that blood was drawn without a warrant and without the arrestee’s consent because the [arrestee’s] liver was in the process of “destroying evidence of a crime.”  The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in favor of the arrested man’s contention that the search was unconstitutional and violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant,” the court’s majority opinion concluded.

As an initial matter, States have a broad range of legal tools to enforce their drunk-driving laws and to secure BAC [blood-alcohol content] evidence without undertaking warrantless nonconsensual blood draws,” Justice Sotomayor wrote for the court’s majority.

For example, all 50 States have adopted implied consent laws that require motorists, as a condition of operating a motor vehicle within the State, to consent to BAC testing if they are arrested or otherwise detained on suspicion of a drunk-driving offense.”

“Such laws impose significant consequences when a motorist withdraws consent; typically the motorist’s driver’s license is immediately suspended or revoked, and most States allow the motorist’s refusal to take a BAC test to be used as evidence against him in a subsequent criminal prosecution,” she added, noting there is “no evidence” to suggest restricting such blood draws has impeded enforcement efforts.

Because a police officer must typically transport a drunk-driving suspect to a medical facility and obtain the assistance of someone with appropriate medical training before conducting a blood test, some delay between the time of the arrest or accident and the time of the test is inevitable regardless of whether police officers are required to obtain a warrant,” Justice Sotomayor stated “This reality undermines the force of the state’s contention, endorsed by the dissent, that we should recognize a categorical exception to the warrant requirement because BAC evidence is actively being destroyed with every minute that passes. Consider, for example, in a situation in which the warrant process will not significantly increase the delay before the blood test is conducted because an officer can take steps to secure a warrant while the suspect is being transported to a medical facility by another officer. In such a circumstance, there would be no plausible justification for an exception to the search warrant requirement.