Supreme Court Protects Rights and Requires States to Obtain Warrant in DUI Stops

On April 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided a case that has implications throughout the country. The case, Missouri v. McNeely, was based on a motorist who was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving and arrested. McNeely refused to take a breath test, but was then taken to a local hospital for a blood test. The subsequent test revealed that he had a blood alcohol level of .15, and he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
McNeely moved to have the evidence suppressed, claiming that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, ruled that absent extraordinary circumstances, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant before compelling a driver to submit to a blood test. It rejected the notion that officers must act freely (and without warrants) because valuable evidence (specifically alcohol in a driver’s blood) dissipates quickly. (A link to the decision is at the bottom of this post.)
Aside form the obvious benefits to individuals charged with DUI, there are even more protections the Court has inferred upon individuals. If the police take your blood or urine without obtaining a warrant and it is found that extraordinary conditions did not exist, the police may be liable to the individual in civil court for violations of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, commonly referred to as “section 1983” . This law provides, “Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, Suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress,…” In plain terms, an actor, working for the government is liable to the injured party when that actor deprived the individual of their rights.
Obviously, this change is important and every case or situation is different. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI/DWI, contact the Prince Law Firm immediately to protect your rights.

No. 11–1425. Argued January 9, 2013—Decided April 17, 2013

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