The United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police must obtain a search warrant to draw blood in routine drunk driving arrests.
The case stems from a 2010 drunk driving arrest in Cape Girardeau. At question is whether a Missouri Highway Patrol Officer violated Tyler McNeely’s protection from unreasonable search and seizure when he drew McNeely’s blood with neither a warrant nor his permission.
Missouri prosecutors argue that alcohol dissolves in the bloodstream while officers wait for a warrant, thus destroying evidence. The high court ruled in McNeely’s favor, but pulled up short of banning all unwarranted blood tests.
Tony Rothert is the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. He says the decision requires police officers to consider all circumstances during a drunk driving arrest when deciding if a warrant is necessary.
“Half the states already prohibit blood draws without consent and without a warrant. And now absent true emergency circumstances, that will be the rule throughout the country.”
The state of Missouri argued that alcohol dissipates in the blood stream while officers await a warrant, thus destroying evidence.
Missouri Prosecutors Association president Eric Zahnd says the court refused to specify under which circumstances warrantless blood draws are permissible.
“The question of whether warrantless blood tests of a drunk driving suspect is permissible will continue to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The good news is such tests will remain an arrow in the quiver of law enforcement in appropriate circumstances.”
Warrantless blood tests are permissible under certain conditions, such as in collisions.