Earlier this year, we covered the Cape Girardeau County Breathalyzer refusal case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, a man suspected of drunk driving was required to submit to a warrantless blood test after refusing to take a breath test. The court recently ruled that this was a violation of the man’s constitutional rights.
In a nearly unanimous decision, which isn’t too common, the court determined that Missouri law enforcement officials should have sought a warrant to draw the man’s blood. The officers in this case justified their decision by saying they were worried about the evidence diminishing. However, the court determined that “dissipation of alcohol in the blood” is not a reason to gloss over protections against warrantless searches and seizures.
At the same time, however, this ruling may allow the possibility of warrantless blood draws under rare circumstances. The Missouri Supreme Court determined that a warrant wasn’t necessary when waiting to receive court approval would threaten a person’s safety or “destroy potential evidence,” but the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t delve in to this aspect of the case.
For those whose constitutional rights are violated during an arrest, challenging charges on those grounds is of the utmost importance. If the Fourth Amendment isn’t upheld, police would have complete latitude in how they conduct investigations and arrests. After all, seeking out a warrant is not a burden for police; rather, it’s a way of making sure that the justice system remains fair.
As Missouri law enforcement officials adjust to the results of this case, it will be important for those who have their blood drawn after being suspected of DWI to ensure that a warrant was obtained.
Source: Kansas City Star, “U.S. Supreme Court denies Missouri’s push for warrantless blood tests in DUI cases,” Brian Burnes, April 18, 2013
- To learn more about your legal options after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, please visit our St. Louis DWI page.