SUPREME COURT HOLDS WARRANTLESS BLOOD DRAWS IN DUI CASES MAY VIOLATE FOURTH AMENDMENT
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has issued a major decision in Missouri v. McNeely (Docket No. 11-1425) concerning the collection of blood evidence in drunk driving cases.
The following issue was presented to the high Court:
“Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream?”
Here is what the Court declared:
“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.”
Thus, blood-draws done without the arrestee’s express consent are presumptively unconstitutional absent a warrant. The presumption may be rebutted where it is demonstrated by the California prosecutors that the totality of the circumstances reasonably necessitated the drawing of blood before obtaining a warrant.
Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion declared, in part, that: “… States and other governmental entities which enforce the driving laws can adopt rules, procedures, and protocols that meet the reasonableness requirements of the Fourth Amendment and give helpful guidance to law enforcement officials. And this Court, in due course, may find it appropriate and necessary to consider a case permitting it to provide more guidance than it undertakes to give today.
“As the opinion of the Court is correct to note, the instant case, by reason of the way in which it was presented and decided in the state courts, does not provide a framework where it is prudent to hold any more than that always dispensing with a warrant for a blood test when a driver is arrested for being under the influence of alcohol is inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.”
California’s implied consent law does not trump this decision. Although a motorist may still get his (or her) license suspended for withdrawing consent and refusing to submit to chemical testing, the police may not normally coerce or forcibly take blood from a DUI suspect without a warrant.
If you were recently arrested in the Bay Area and charged with driving under the influence, contact Board Certified DUI defense lawyer Paul Burglin.