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Supreme Court is to hear an involuntary DUI blood test case

Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court is to hear an involuntary DUI blood test case originating out of a Missouri DUI case. The DUI case demonstrates the conflict between law enforcement’s efforts to identify and prosecute drunk drivers and civil libertarians’ efforts to preserve citizens’ constitutional rights and as mentioned will now be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court will decide whether Missouri state courts correctly excluded evidence of a driver’s blood alcohol content acquired through an involuntarily blood draw.

In October 2010, police in Cape Girardeau, Mo. stopped Tyler McNeely on suspicion of drunk driving. McNeely objected a blood alcohol content test, but the officer took the suspect to the hospital anyway, where hospital staff took a sample of McNeely’s blood and tested it. The test assessed McNeely’s blood alcohol content at .154. The officer did not have a warrant.

At trial, McNeely’s lawyer moved to exclude the blood test, arguing that the test was an unreasonable search and seizure. The state argued that the ofaficer was permitted to perform the warrantless search and seizure, even without stating any emergency circumstances.

The trial judge ruled for the accused, the appeals court sided with the state, and the Missouri Supreme Court reversed again, reinstating the trial court’s exclusion of the test. That court noted that the state never presented evidence that a warrant was not available, just that the officer believed one was unnecessary. The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, who are representing McNeely, told CBS News that the police officer never attempted to obtain a warrant, and did not articulate “that he feared a delay would lower the level of alcohol in McNeely’s blood.”

The state, meanwhile, argued that placing such a restriction on law enforcement officers does irreparable harm to the pursuit of drunk drivers. The ruling “actually requires police officers to stand by and allow the best, most probative evidence to be destroyed during a drunk-driving investigation,” the state wrote in its appeal. McNeely’s lawyers countered in their papers that, although “every drunk-driving investigation will involve the eventual dissipation of a suspect’s blood alcohol content, not every case will involve a risk of losing evidence of intoxication before search.”

Morley Swingle, Prosecuting Attorney for Cape Girardeau County, opined that the case has sweeping ramifications. “This is a case that will impact search and seizure law nationwide,” Swingle told KFVS TV. “I think the reason they took it is because it’s so hugely important because drink driving is happening all the time and police officers and the public need the answer to whether or not a search warrant is needed.”

As states become ever more motivated to confront the problem of drunk driving, their methods become more aggressive. While the intentions behind these efforts are laudable, sometimes the actual steps are not, as they cross the line into denying accused person of their constitutional rights. If you’re accused of drunk driving, you should contact a DUI attorney about your case. Attorney Daniel B. Beck and our Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are experienced in all aspects of these cases, including analyzing the procedures law enforcement use, and determining if those procedures violate your constitutional rights.

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