Warantless DUI Blood Tests
In October 2012, at about 2 AM, Tyler McNeely was pulled over for speeding not DUI. The Missouri Highway patrolman, Mark Winder, saw some signs of intoxication in McNeely, and had him perform four DUI field sobriety tests. McNeely performed poorly, so the officer asked him to perform a breathalyzer, which McNeely refused.
Winder too McNeely to a medical clinic nearby and, when McNeely refused to submit to a voluntary blood test, Winder ordered the clinic to draw blood anyway. McNeely’s blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit, and he was charged with his third DUI offense, which could lead to up to four years in prison.
However, McNeely’s lawyer argued that the sample was unusable in court because it was obtained without a legal search warrant. Prosecutors disagreed, because blood dissipates rapidly within the body, and without Winder’s action there would be no proof of McNeely’s repeated DUI. If he’d waited longer, they said, it would essentially have been destruction of evidence.
Originally, the judge agreed that the sample could not be used in court as evidence. Now, however, the trial about the DUI has reached the Supreme Court. Missouri police argue that they should not have to wait for a warrant in cases like these, but Missouri’s highest court decided on January 17th that the nonconsensual test violated the Fourth Amendment – protection against unreasonable search and seizures.
Missouri argued against the state Supreme Court, saying it misinterpreted a decision from 1966 in which the US Supreme Court upheld the warrantless drawing of blood from a man who had been in a car accident. “Special facts” justified the blood draw in that particular search. Missouri aims to show that “special facts” apply here, too, although there was no accident and McNeely did not have to be transported to the hospital for medical attention.
The case is now going before the United States Supreme Court for a final decision on whether or not police must have a warrant in DUI cases where they need a blood sample. The decision to accept the case was announced on Tuesday, September 25th.
FBI records show that 1.41 million people were arrested in 2010 alone on DUI charges. As many as 28 people die in the United States every day as the result of DUI, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Despite this grim data, 27 states have laws that ban warrantless, nonconsensual drawing of blood as evidence.
DUI Defense is a complicated matter, even without questions about evidence. In South Carolina in particular, you can face huge fines and long jail sentences for DUI. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer free, confidential consultations, so contact us today. 803.252.4800