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US Supreme Court holds a warrant is normally required before ordering a blood draw

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that people should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision regarding that Fourth Amendment protection.

The case before the high court - Missouri v. McNeely - involved a motorist who was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. When the law enforcement officer requested that he take a breathalyzer test, he refused. The officer then took the driver to a hospital, where he instructed that a blood draw take place. The driver did not consent to having his blood taken.

After a blood alcohol test, it was revealed that the driver's BAC was almost two times the legal limit. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider the evidence, however, because the police officer made no attempt to obtain a warrant before ordering the blood draw.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, ruled that in most cases, a warrant is required before blood can be drawn in a suspected case of driving under the influence. Justice Sotomayor wrote that in many cases the police officer will have enough time to get a warrant, as email and cellphones help to expedite the process.

Although the justices noted that alcohol dissipates in the body over time, Justice Sotomayor stated that determining when there is not sufficient time to obtain a warrant will be on a "case-by-case" basis. In addition, officers who fail to obtain a warrant will have to explain why they did not do so in court.

When someone is facing charges of driving under the influence, obtaining counsel to establish a strong defense on his or her behalf is a wise step.

Source: NPR, "Supreme Court Backs Warrants For Blood Tests In DUI Cases," Nina Totenberg, April 17, 2013.

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