Skip to comments.Supreme Court limits warrantless blood tests for drunken driving suspects
Posted on 04/18/2013 1:31:41 PM PDT by Lurking Libertarian
Police officers generally must try to get a warrant before forcing uncooperative drunken-driving suspects to submit to a blood test, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The natural dissipation of alcohol in a persons bloodstream does not justify an exception to the general constitutional requirements of a warrant, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority.
She said such emergencies must be determined by the circumstances in a case-by-case examination and rejected the notion that officers face a now or never situation in obtaining blood alcohol tests.
In those drunk-driving investigations where police officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so, Sotomayor wrote.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Concurrence (actually, very similar to the majority): Roberts, breyer, Alito
Generally, a search requires a search warrant, but there is an exception for "exigent circumstances." Back in 1966, in a case called Schmerber v. California, SCOTUS ruled that drawing blood from a suspected drunk driver was always an "exigent circumstance," because the blood alcohol would dissipate before a warrant could be obtained.
Yesterday's decision held that Schmerber is no longer valid, for two reasons: (1) today, police can get a warrant much more quickly than they could in 1966, because they can fax or email a request to a judge who can fax or email the warrant back; and (2) today's blood alcohol tests are more sensitive and need not be done as quickly to be valid.
The majority did not hold that a warrant is always necessary, but said that, any time the police draw blood without a warrant, they will have to show that the facts of the case prevented them from doing so.
The concurrence (Roberts, Alito and Breyer) generally agreed, but wanted the Court to give more guidance to the police about what facts would justify not getting a warrant. Only Thomas wanted to uphold the Schmerber rule.
This will have interesting repercussions in states which are decriminalizing pot, as breathalyzers are useless.
That's another whole line of cases, but, briefly stated, the distinction that's been drawn is that briefly stopping a car and making the driver roll down the window to see if he reeks of alcohol is much less intrusive than dragging the driver to a hospital and sticking a needle into his vein.
That was the rationale when they approved DUI checkpoints. But now they check your seat belt, your papers, whether you are driving with any unapproved child car seats with expired dates, etc. etc. etc. etc.
Dont Talk to Police
I find it absolutely sickening that police thugs are given the authority to hold someone down and stick a needle in their arm without trial. These are not the actions of an “innocent until proven guilty” system.
Up here, around Albany, New York, our police never take breathalyzers tests when they are stopped on suspicion of DUI or worse.
However, the law says if you don’t acquiesce to the test you can lose your license.
Would guess losing you license is voided too.
I wonder why Thomas dissented? He is usually a solid individual rights justice.
In criminal cases, Thomas almost always votes with the prosecution. Alito is also a generally pro-prosecution justice. Breyer, although usually considered one of the "liberal" judges, likewise votes for the prosecution in many criminal cases; and Scalia, considered one of the "conservative" judges, very often votes for the defense in criminal cases.
That surprises me. Thomas is a very staunch proponent of due process.
Nah, it shouldn’t have any effect on that, because pot stays in your bloodstream for weeks.
I hear ya’ but I’ve known that for decades.
Not in criminal cases. Thomas is a "law and order" conservative; he votes for the prosecution in nearly every criminal case.
It’s also clearly a violation of the 5th amendment protections against self-incrimination. My blood is a part of me, so to forcibly take it in order to incriminate me is equivalent to forcing me to testify against myself.
Sure, but how long is your license suspended if you blow positive? Might be better to just take the suspension on the chance of beating the blood test a few hours later and keeping a DUI off your record.
States should just impose a blood ‘tax’ for drivers who are pulled over...
In a long line of cases going back to 1910, the Supreme Court held that the 5th Amendment protects you against being forced to give oral or written testimony, but not against being forced to display your physical characteristics— standing in a lineup, giving fingerprints, having blood drawn, etc.
So if you’re tired and swerving on the road because you work 3 jobs to pay for Obama’s taxes then you get to be falsely accused of drunkenness...lovely.
I think, in general, that we have erred too far in granting exceptions to the rights of individuals in deference to the interests of government. Will some guilty go free? Yes, of course, but better than a single innocent wrongly deprived of God given liberty and freedom. This the founders firmly believed, but our current crop of politicians sadly do not.
If that happened to me, I'd be screaming to take a blood test. They wouldn't need a warrant.
I know that, but the Supreme Court is often completely wrong when it comes to the Constitution.
That's an observation that I wasn't aware of - not being a rigorous student of SCOTUS.
Based on future SCOTUS nominations, this precedence makes a serious point of delineation for new "due process" litigation. Liberty is in the balance... and drifting to the LEFT.
Pardon my ignorance here, but are you saying the cops are drawing blood on the roadside? In GA, we have an “implied consent” law subjecting you to a test of blood, breath, or urine but if you have blood drawn you are transported to hospital.