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US Supreme Court to Decide Forcible Blood Withdrawal Case


When you think of warrantless searches by law enforcement, you think of officers searching homes or cars. But what about searches into your body?

On October 3, 2010 Tyler G. McNeely was pulled over for speeding in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The officer who stopped him noticed the telltale signs of intoxication; blood shot eyes and slurred speech. Upon failing the field sobriety tests, the officer arrested McNeely and asked him to submit to a breath test. McNeely refused. Instead of obtaining a warrant to withdraw blood, as he had done in his 17 years as a veteran officer, the officer drove McNeely to the hospital to have blood forcibly withdrawn. The results showed that McNeely was well over the legal limit and he was charged with DUI. He moved to suppress the evidence claiming that the warrantless, forcible withdrawal of his blood was an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Missouri Supreme Court sided with McNeely. It ruled that the officer was “not justified” in forcibly withdrawing the blood because it was not an “emergency” and the evidence was not in danger of disappearing. Prosecutors in the McNeely case have appealed and the United States Supreme Court has decided to resolve the issue. Missouri prosecutors are arguing that they should not have to wait for a warrant to withdraw blood because the alcohol dissipates in the blood after short time making it evanescent or “fleeting” evidence. Generally, police can seize evidence without a warrant if there is a risk that the evidence will be lost in the time that it takes law enforcement to obtain a warrant. A common example of this warrant exception is when there is a risk that drugs may be destroyed before officers can execute a search warrant. This form of search, however, is extremely intrusive and invades the thing that we hold as most private; our body. When presented with this issue before, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated in the 1966 case of Schmerber v. California that “the integrity of an individual’s person is a cherished value in our society…Search warrants are ordinarily required…where intrusions into the body are concerned.” It went on to require that specific facts of an emergency situation and a reasonable belief that an emergency situation exist on behalf of the office be present before an officer is justified in failing to obtain a search warrant before obtaining blood. This was the argument posed by McNeely’s ACLU lawyers. They went on to argue that “While 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.” The Court will consider case during the current term that runs through next June.

The post US Supreme Court to Decide Forcible Blood Withdrawal Case appeared first on Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor - DUI Central.

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