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An update on forcible blood testing in DWI cases

Previously on this blog, we discussed a case that was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the issue of warrantless blood testing in drunk driving cases. That case has since been decided, so we will revisit the topic to provide an update.

The case in question is known as Missouri v. McNeely. It started when a Missouri highway patrolman stopped a man named Tyler McNeely for speeding in 2010. 

Suspecting that the driver was intoxicated, the officer administered a series of field sobriety tests, which the driver failed. After he refused to take a breath test, the officer took the man to a medical clinic where his blood was tested against his will and without a warrant.

The Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether the warrantless blood testing violated the driver’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court ruled that the man’s rights were indeed violated and that police generally must get a warrant before taking a blood sample from a DWI suspect who does not consent to be tested.

The warrant requirement in the Fourth Amendment is meant to put limits on police power by requiring them to get approval from a judge before interfering with a criminal suspect or that person’s property. In order to get a warrant, police are required to provide specific evidence showing that a crime is likely to have occurred. This is known as probable cause.

If you are pulled over for suspected impaired driving in Missouri, the police must obtain a warrant before requiring you to take a blood test except in certain emergency conditions. However, it is important to understand that refusing to submit to DUI testing can have its own set of consequences in addition to those that may apply for the underlying impaired driving offense.

It is always a good idea to get advice from a defense lawyer if you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He or she can help you understand your options and will work hard to protect your rights at every step of the process.

Source: The News Wheel, "Missouri vs. McNeely Case Brief: Drunk Driving and Blood Tests," July 25, 2014

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