Warrants Needed for Blood Draws from DUI Suspects
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of forcible blood draws during DUI investigations. The Court held in an 8-1 decision that a police officer must seek a warrant to conduct a forcible blood draw from a DUI suspect.
The case (Missouri v. McNeely) began in Missouri where Tyler McNeely was pulled over under the suspension of driving under the influence. Mr. McNeely refused to provide a breath sample to police. The Missouri State Trooper then transported a handcuffed McNeely to a nearby hospital and had medical staff extract a blood sample against Mr. McNeely’s will. The sample contained an alcohol level more than double the legal limit.
Mr. McNeely moved to suppress the blood sample, and the trial court granted the defendant’s motion. The State of Missouri appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. The state lost because the Court held that the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from warrantless blood draws. The US Supreme Court came to the same conclusion.
Even though citizens’ constitutional rights to privacy in their automobile have been eroded over the years, the court held that piercing a person’s skin should be held to a higher level of scrutiny. They held that there was not a blanket exception for blood draws and that, in each case where a warrantless search occurs, the police officer will have to explain why the “exigent circumstances” prevented the seeking of a warrant.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. He wrote that since the body naturally processes alcohol in blood, police never need to seek a warrant.