The Missouri Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in Missouri v. McNeely and eventually make a decision regarding a very controversial subject — warrantless blood draws on alleged drunk drivers.
This case began on the evening of October 3rd, 2010 when Tyler McNeely was pulled over for speeding and improper lane usage. After the officer made contact with McNeely, the officer claims he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and that McNeely’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The officer conducted four different sobriety tests, to which he claimed McNeely performed poorly. McNeely was then placed under arrest and the officer began to transport him to the police station. On the way to the station McNeely stated he would not submit to a breathalyzer and so the officer changed his route to a nearby medical lab. Once they arrived at the medical lab, the officer asked McNeely if he would consent to the blood test and McNeely refused. At this time, a blood test was taken from McNeely without his consent and without a warrant.
Soon after the arrest the state of Missouri filed charges against McNeely for driving while intoxicated. McNeely’s counsel filed a motion to suppress the blood alcohol results claiming they were the result of an illegal search and seizer and a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court found that the Fourth Amendment requires either exigent circumstances or a warrant to withdraw blood without consent of the subject. It found that since no danger or exigent circumstance was present, a warrant was required to draw blood. Accordingly, the trial court suppressed the results of the blood draw on McNeely.
On Appeal, the Missouri Court of Appeals disagreed and found that exigent circumstances are present in the case of an alleged DWI offender because of “the rapid dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.” However, on its own motion, the Court of Appeals transferred the case to the Missouri Supreme Court due to the general importance of the issue and the lack of case law created on the subject in this state.
The Supreme Court of Missouri will soon decide this issue and will either uphold existing law or create new law. Its decision will have a monumental affect on Missouri drivers pulled over for driving while intoxicated. Currently, Missouri drivers can either submit to a breathalyzer or refuse to submit. The Supreme Court’s decision can eliminate this choice for Missouri drivers.