During the Supreme Court’s next 9-month session – which started on Monday, October 1, it will decide whether individuals accused of driving while intoxicated can be forced to submit blood samples without a warrant. The primary reason this issue has gone all the way to the Supreme Court has to do with motorists’ privacy rights and a potential violation of the Fourth Amendment. This is an important debate. The Supreme Court’s decision has the potential to affect legal standards in all states when it comes to gathering evidence against people suspected of driving while intoxicated.
The specific case the Supreme Court will review is Missouri v. McNeely (11-1425). It stems from an October 2010 DUI stop by a Missouri state highway patrol officer.
According to the Opinion issued on January 17, 2012 by the Supreme Court of Missouri: a summary of the situation is as follows:
Tyler McNeely (Defendant) refused to consent to an alcohol breath test or a blood test after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. The arresting patrolman, without seeking a warrant from a judge, ordered a medical professional to draw Defendant’s blood. The trial court sustained Defendant’s motion to suppress the results of the blood test as the nonconsensual and warrantless blood draw was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
In essence, the police in Missouri believe they should be able to administer Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) tests to suspected drunk drivers immediately due to the fact that alcohol content in the blood disappears relatively quickly. The state of Missouri’s highest court, on the other hand, believes that BAC testing without a DUI suspect’s consent is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
According to the website HealthGuidance.org, “your weight can affect how long alcohol takes to leave your system, with the heavier individual generally sobering up more quickly as units of alcohol make up a smaller percentage of their body mass.”
Because the way a person’s body absorbs alcohol depending on their weight, the Supreme Court’s decision could potentially affect the results of BAC testing for anyone who refuses the test. When the Supreme Court announces its decision on this matter, we will post more information on this blog.
If you have been charged with drunk driving in Denver, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney at Tiftickjian Law Firm, P.C. With offices in Denver and Aspen, the law firm’s defense lawyers can be contacted at (303) DUI-5280.