Supreme Court Strikes
Blood Tests for DWI
Wednesday, April 17,
The United States Supreme Court struck
a sharp blow to DWI enforcement this week.
The long entrenched option of obtaining
blood from a drunk driver without first procuring a search warrant,
appears to no longer be available, at least in some circumstances.
"We hold that in drunk-driving
investigations, 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," said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The lone holdout of the 8-1 decision
was Justice Clarence Thomas.
Guidance for handling such cases moving
forward is expected to come down from the New Jersey Attorney General's
Washington (CNN) -- A man charged
with drunk driving won his case at the U.S. Supreme Court on
Wednesday, after the justices concluded police should have first
obtained a warrant before conducting a blood test against his will,
shortly after arrest.
At issue was a balancing test
between timely gathering of accurate evidence and privacy interests.
The high court struck down
Missouri's guidelines giving police broad discretion to forego
getting a judge's prior approval before executing a search.
Law enforcement wants flexibility
to conduct such "searches"-- saying alcohol dissipates over time and
that delays getting a magistrate to sign off on a blood sample can
mean justice denied.
But civil rights advocates say
these kinds of "invasive" medical procedures are unnecessary and
unconstitutional, absent any extraordinary circumstances negating
the warrant requirement.
The ruling did not provide a bright
line rule for either side. But it affirmed the existing standard
that the "totality of the circumstances" must be considered by
police, and was not properly applied in this case.
The court did not offer law
enforcement specifics on how much time can elapse before police
would reasonably be able to forego warrants and order blood tests.
Half the states prohibit
warrantless blood draws by police in "run-of-the-mill" DUI cases.
A copy of the actual decision can be found