U.S. Supreme Court to hear forcible drunk driving testing case

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The nation’s highest court recently agreed to consider whether police officers who obtain forced blood tests without benefit of search warrants are violating the constitutional rights of such forcibly-tested drivers. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case stems from prosecutors appealing the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling that police officers must normally get a search warrant before conducting blood-alcohol tests. This case could have significant ramifications upon those Missourians who find themselves accused of drunk driving.

As many people who face such accusations know, not every person who is criminally charged has committed the crimes they are accused of committing. The specific case which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider relates to a man who was accused of drunk driving and refused to submit to a blood test. Despite that man’s refusal to consent, Missouri authorities drove him to a lab and forced him to submit blood for testing.

His legal representatives argue that the Supreme Court should not allow people who are accused of drunk driving to have their constitutional rights categorically violated. They maintain that the requirement for police to obtain a search warrant to conduct invasive bodily searches should hold just the same for people suspected of drunk driving as for any other accused individual. The Missouri Supreme Court evidently agreed.

While it is not yet clear how this particular case will play out in front of the nation’s highest court, it does seem likely that it could have national ramifications. Missouri individuals who find themselves accused of drunk driving will be particularly affected. Constitutional law guarantees them the freedom from being unfairly searched without a search warrant. Those who do not consent to blood-alcohol testing but are forcibly tested anyway could benefit if the Supreme Court decides to uphold the Missouri court’s ruling in this case. Such a ruling would allow them to have such forcibly-obtained test results thrown out of court in their own cases.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Forced Blood Test in Drunk Driving Case Gets Court Review,” Greg Stohr, Sept. 25, 2012

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