Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Argument heard by the US Supreme Court on the DUI Case Missouri v. McNeely

Every once in a while a case that affects DUIs comes along that makes it all the way to the US Supreme Court.  Welcome to the case of Missouri v. McNeely where oral arguments were heard dealing with this particular issue.  So what is this case about you ask

Issue: Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a non consensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the 4th amendment requirement of a warrant based on the natural dissipation of alcohol from the human body. 

In other words.  Can a cop force someone to give a blood sample without a warrant because alcohol exits a human body.  Keep in mind this is different that what is currently going on in Seattle DUI arrest cases where an officer can obtain a warrant to do a blood draw and force someone to provide a blood sample.  

Argument recap: Most of the hour long argument was spent discussing all the possibilities of exigent circumstances.  From a review of the transcripts of the argument it appears the Justices view the use of a needle to take a blood sample as quite an intrusive gesture by the government, and the 4th amendment shouldn't be discarded because alcohol is always going to be disappearing from the human bloodstream.  

To no surprise the lawyers for the state mainly argued there would never be enough time to get a warrant before alcohol dissipates.  Therefore the need to bypass the warrant requirement, and allow officers to force a blood draw on their own.  However what was pointed out by Justice Kennedy that half of the states do not allow the taking of a DUI blood sample without a warrant, and they have streamlined procedures for issuing warrants.  Steven Shapiro from the ACLU pointed out an interesting point.  He argued that getting a warrant was not a complex task, given the technology of lap tops, and cell phones that exist today.  

Overall from what I have read, and others opinions who were there it doesnt appear that the US Supreme Court will allow law enforcement officers to force blood draws without a warrant requirement.  Although you never know what is going to happen.  

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Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  He has offices in downtown Seattle, in Bellevue, and in Bothell.

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