Missouri vs. McNeely – Blood Test In Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Investigation May Require Warrant

Recent case law sets forth that now police officers investigating someone for driving while intoxicated (DWI), must under general conditions get a warrant in order to get a blood test from the suspect. Without such a warrant, the blood test must be thrown out. So the response to the age old question that I keep getting from people, can the police just force me to take a blood test, is no, generally they cannot do so until they have obtained a warrant for your blood.

The ruling comes from the United States Supreme Court review of a Missouri case. In that case, defendant Tyler McNeely was pulled at night by a state trooper who claimed that McNeely was driving erratically. While under investigation, McNeely invoked his right to refuse to take the breath test, the officer drove him to a local hospital and ordered blood drawn for an alcohol test. The trooper then forced McNeely to take a blood test without obtaining a warrant. The state of Missouri argued in support of their trooper's actions, that alcohol dissipates in the blood stream, thereby creating an emergency situation, where the police would lose the evidence if they took the time to get a warrant. However, given the advancements of technology and the 24/7 availability of magistrates in most jurisdictions, eight out nine Supreme Court Justices found Missouri's argument to be invalid.

Allowing states to establish a general rule that a blood test always creates an emergency situation where the state could simply ignore the rights of its citizens would simply be abhorrent. The argument that the delay will cause the loss of evidence is ridiculous, as there is an automatic delay in simply taking the suspect to the hospital and preparing the suspect for the blood test. If an emergency such an emergency situation does exist where the warrant requirement must be dispensed with then it must be determined on a case by case basis.