U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether DUI Suspects Can be Forced to Give Blood Sample
The Supreme Court will soon decide whether a DUI suspect can be forced to give a blood sample without a search warrant. The case arises from Missouri v. McNeely. McNeely was stopped for speeding and crossing the center line by a Missouri police officer. McNeely refused to take a breath test and was taken to a nearby hospital for blood testing. The officer never attempted to get a search warrant and McNeely refused consent, but the officer directed the lab technician to take a sample anyway. The blood alcohol content tested well above the legal limit, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). McNeely moved to suppress the blood test result, arguing that taking his blood without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
The trial court agreed, and the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed, citing the California case of Schmerber v. California, and said the exception to the warrant requirement didn’t apply because, “apart from the fact that McNeely’s blood alcohol was dissipating, no circumstances suggested that the officer faced an emergency.”
“Forcing” someone to give a blood sample usually doesn’t involve physical force. It usually means that the DUI suspect will voice their objection then later submit to the blood test. However, in some jurisdictions in California, if the suspect doesn’t comply, police will hold the suspect down and restrain the suspect while a nurse draws the sample. Some jails have a nurse on call at the jail during peak DUI arrest times, such as Friday and Saturday evenings. In other jurisdictions, the police will take the suspect to the emergency room of a local hospital.
Update: Supreme Court Rules Police Need a Search Warrant to Force a Blood Draw
In April of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that police can no longer force DUI suspects to provide a blood sample without a search warrant. The court reasoned that “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.” The ruling is not retroactive, and will not have any impact on prior convictions. In California, law enforcement can only obtain a search warrant for felony crimes (with some exceptions for misdemeanor child sex abuse crimes), therefore, law enforcement agencies can only do forced blood draws in felony DUI cases with a search warrant. DUI offenses typically rise to the felony level when the suspect has prior DUI convictions or the DUI resulted in injury or death.
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If you’ve been arrested for suspicion of drunk driving, seek the advice of an experienced and aggressive DUI lawyer immediately. Rancho Cucamonga DUI attorney John D. Lueck has over 35 years of experience successfully defending DUI cases in San Bernardino County and throughout Southern California. If you have been accused of a DUI, contact Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer John D. Lueck today for a free consultation.