US Supreme Court: Warrant Needed To Take Blood In DUI Cases

US Supreme Court: Warrant Needed To Take Blood In DUI Cases

WASHINGTON, DC — In a case that could have nationwide implications in the enforcement of marijuana impaired “drugged driving” laws, the United States Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states can not routinely compel drivers to submit to a blood test in drunk driving cases without consent and without a warrant.

The ruling comes in the case of Missouri v. McNeely, originated by an arrest in October 2010 in the rural county of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Tyler McNeely was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol after police forced him to to undergo a blood test without a warrant.

McNeely, who had two previous drunken-driving convictions, refused to submit to a breath test to measure the alcohol level in his body, and failed several field sobriety tests.

The arresting officer, Cpl. Mark Winder of the Missouri Highway Patrol, did not attempt to get a warrant but drove McNeely to a hospital, where a technician drew his blood.

The blood test found McNeely had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in is blood.

In their 8-1 ruling Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court said that there was no sufficient reason to dispense with the requirement that police get a judge’s approval before drawing a blood sample.

Previously, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled  that the blood test violated the state’s Constitution. Police need a warrant to take a suspect’s blood except when a delay could threaten a life or destroy potential evidence, the Missouri court added.

“I don’t think that the delays in getting a warrant justify the police sticking a needle in your arm because there’s no evidence that those delays interfere with the state’s ability to enforce drunk driving laws,” said ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro.

“The interest that is being preserved is a very important principle, that before the government conducts a search, and especially a search as intrusive that involves putting a needle in your arm over your objection when you’re restrained, that decision ought not to be made by the police themselves absent a true emergency, but ought to be reviewed and approved by a judge. That’s the principle under which our constitutional law operates,” Shapiro said.

Nationwide, 26 states already ban the drawing of blood without a warrant.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the only judge that ruled in favor of warrantless blood testing.

This ruling will set immediate precedent throughout the nation, as recently enacted “drugged driving” laws rely on blood tests to determine the amount of cannabis in a driver’s blood.

Many of these DUID laws consider a driver guilty of driving under the influence based solely on the amount of THC in their blood, regardless of whether the driver is actually impaired or “high” from marijuana.

  • firetheliberals

    All fine and a good ruling, however, states like washington impose harsh penalties if you do not consent..I believe you automatically lose your licensr for a year.. so the gestapo can force you to comply

    • Crass B

      I would think they will have to change this law. We have the same laws here in UT.

      I am a bit torn on this decision though. Reason being that someone driving drunk on alcohol is almost always a threat to others and if a warrant is needed, the drunk driver may not be over the limit still by the time the warrant is issued.

      Further, because cannabis stays in your system forever, it won’t matter if it takes even 48 hours, in many cases, some users will still be over the 5 nano limit. And I think it’s pretty clear that cannabis smokers are far less dangerous behind the wheel. Otherwise there would be statistics to cite and it seems there aren’t any.

      I think we need to seriously research driving on cannabis and stop trying to equate it to driving on alcohol. They are vastly different.

    • Kimberly Wilkerson-Starrett

      if my high school teacher was correct in his teachings, supreme court overrules all state courts….

      • firetheliberals

        Correct, but my point is that states like washington can get a quick warrant but they build in heavy penalties if you do not consent to force you to comply. Bssically, it is technicality that these slimy ba $ tards use to control the public

  • CharlieR

    They should be doing some research first to actually determine the amount of THC in someone’s blood WHILE IMPAIRED – so, during the first 1 – 4 hrs after smoking Cannabis, after that they are no longer high, just like hours after having only 1 drink. So, measuring a measly few nanograms of THC in the blood sounds like a teeny tiny bit to me. And a person still has THC in their system for weeks after consumption, because it binds with fat cells – so that just isn’t fair to give them a DUI.