The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of involuntarily blood draws on drunken-driving suspects without a warrant. This outcome could determine the future of DUI cases in the country and whether certain states are violating a person's Fourth Amendment rights by doing so.
As widely reported, Missouri resident Tyler McNeely refused to consent to a breath or blood test after his DUI arrest, but a state patrolman ordered a phlebotomist to draw his blood anyway. The problem? He did so without first seeking a warrant from a judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing McNeely, said the arresting officer made no effort to obtain a warrant because he didn't believe he needed one.
"Critics of the involuntary blood draw are suggesting that having blood drawn without consent is much like the constitutionally banned practice of involuntary stomach pumps in search of evidence," says attorney Martin Sweet of the legal information website THELAW.TV.
Although McNeely's blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit, a Missouri court upheld his argument that the method used to obtain the results was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
The state appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled that law enforcement officials need a warrant to take a suspect's blood except in special circumstances when a delay could threaten a life or destroy potential evidence.
That's not uncommon. Florida law, for instance, requires a warrant to collect blood samples from drunken driving suspects unless there is serious bodily injury or death.
"Whether a particular defendant is guilty of the crime charged, or whether getting a warrant would be inconvenient, are absolutely irrelevant to the Constitutional protections we all enjoy," says Sweet.
In Washington, however, a new law allows troopers to draw blood from them even if they won't give it voluntarily.
Does extracting bodily fluids without consent cross a line? Some seem to think so.
"Since we already have a large problem with the ethics of our police in Washington, this is just another law that was most likely started in good will," Ryan Brooks, host of the Sound of Freedom radio show, told the Examiner.com.
"However, it will be just another way for police to abuse the rights of citizens. We cannot force morality on people, and this will not do any good."
The High Court judges are expected to hear the case in January.