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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Missouri Man's Warrantless DUI Blood Draw Case Tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 8:22 AM

click to enlarge The Supreme Court is about to take a ride with Tyler McNeely.
  • The Supreme Court is about to take a ride with Tyler McNeely.

When Tyler G. McNeely was knocking back drinks on an October evening in 2010, he probably didn't figure he was about to embark on a two year journey to the United States Supreme Court.

But that's exactly where his night of boozing will land him tomorrow, when the nine justices will hear arguments to determine whether a Missouri State Trooper had the right to take and test McNeely's blood without consent or a warrant.

Must be heady to be the stand-in for every drunk driver in America.

McNeely was pulled over two years ago around 2 a.m. and put through a battery of sobriety tasks after the trooper noted that the 25 year old had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. McNeely refused to take a Breathalyzer, so the officer handcuffed him, placed him under arrest, and brought him to a nearby hospital. When McNeely also refused to take a blood test, he was restrained and a nurse took a sample. McNeely's blood alcohol content came back 0.154, just under twice the legal limit.

Rather than accept this as an open-and-shut DUI, McNeely's lawyer challenged the blood test results saying they'd been obtained in violation of Fourth Amendment rights (the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure). In his first trial, McNeely won the right to suppress the blood draw evidence. When a Missouri Court of Appeals was asked to weigh in, it agreed with the trooper but kicked it to the Missouri Supreme Court. That court sided with McNeely. Now it's on its way to the highest court in the land.

The U.S. government is supporting the state of Missouri, saying the Fourth Amendment allows for "reasonable" search and the time needed to obtain a warrant should be considered "destruction of evidence" as the human body metabolizes alcohol in the blood stream (read the argument in full here).

"Once the police have probable cause to believe that an individual has been driving while intoxicated, so that a blood test likely will provide evidence of intoxication, it is reasonable for the police to obtain the blood sample without first seeking a warrant," the brief reads. "This is not to say that police will conduct blood tests of every drunk driver."

McNeely is being supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed their own brief on his behalf.

"The issue in this case is whether the police can compel a warrantless blood test in every DWI case...even when there is no reason to believe that a search warrant could not be obtained in a timely fashion," the brief reads. "Petitioner overstates the need for warrantless blood tests, and understates the affront to personal privacy and dignity when the States overrides an individual's objection and sticks a needle in his arm."

Would that be the right to bear drunk arms?

Read the entire ACLU brief below. We'll keep you appraised of the high court's decision.

ACLU Brief Missouri v McNeely

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