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Police and Law Enforcement Home    >    Police News    >    Supreme Court Strikes Down Warrantless Blood Tests for DWI


Police and
Law Enforcement News


Supreme Court Strikes
Down Warrantless
Blood Tests for DWI
Wednesday, April 17, 2013  11:22 p.m.


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 Office shortly.

From CNN:

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 here.





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