Tuesday, June 18, 2013

SCOTUS tells cops no more getting blood from DUI suspects without a warrant or permission

If the cops want to get a sample of your blood for a DUI case, they've got to get a warrant -- or permission from the person accused of DUI. That's the rule handed down by the United States Supreme Court, which, on April 17, 2013, decided Missouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425.

The SCOTUS effectively slammed the brakes on cops trying to rush people for blood tests for alcohol levels without a search warrant. Cops want to get the blood in a hurry, they say, to prevent loss of evidence due to the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream. In short, they want to get your blood when the blood alcohol content is the highest.

This has lead to many police agencies rushing people off to hospitals for blood tests without warrants, often taking the blood against the will of the person accused. Indeed, some states have said it's permissible for their officers to take the blood without a warrant and without permission. Not anymore.

The Court said that potential loss of blood alcohol was not such a "exigency" (an excuse to do something in a hurry without a warrant) that it justified taking a person's blood without a warrant or the person's permission. The Court said any exception to this ban on taking blood without a warrant would require a case-by-case analysis by the Courts.

This means that any person pulled over for a DUI can refuse to give a blood sample and demand the police get a warrant if the police want to obtain blood from the person accused. Keep in mind that the officer can't even seek a blood test unless the person has been arrested. The cops can't take any blood alcohol sample of any kind -- blood, breath or urine -- from a person unless the person is arrested. The results of the hand-held samplers the cops use on the road are inadmissible in court in most states.

If a person refuses to give the blood sample and the cops get a warrant, the accused can challenge the warrant and the sample in court.

This is a major case because it is another example of one of the rare moments when judges from both the conservative and liberal wings of the Court join together to protect a Constitutional right.

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