The DUI Officer Can’t Hold You Down While They Jab a Needle Into Your Arm (at least not without a warrant)

Missouri v. McNeely has been decided. We can all breath a sigh of relief that the United States Supreme Court has affirmed the judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court. The case holds that in a DUI investigation, “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.”

Translation: The DUI officer cannot hold you down while they jab a needle into your arm to take your blood by force (at least not without a warrant).

Had the ruling gone the other way, DUI officers might start routinely taking blood by force if the person refused to submit to chemical testing after being arrested for DUI. ACLU’s National Legal Director, Steven R. Shapiro, represented Mr. Tyler McNeely before the Supreme Court. He explained it this way:

We know from experience that drunk-driving laws can be strictly enforced without abandoning constitutional rights. Today’s decision appropriately recognizes what half the states have already demonstrated – that maintaining highway safety does not require sacrificing personal privacy.

The case reminds me of a video made by Justin McShane, a DUI attorney in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The video shows what happens during a “no refusal” weekend when the arresting officer wanted blood. This is what it looks like when the DUI officer decides to take blood by force:

This decision does nothing to prevent the officer from getting a warrant to take blood by force. Fortunately, at least in Florida, DUI officers can NOT get a warrant to take blood after a person suspected of a misdemeanor DUI refuses to submit to chemical testing. The MADD crowd will have to be satisfied with the fact that:

  • the “refusal” can be used against the person at trial; and
  • a second refusal can land the person in jail for 12 months for a separate criminal offense (in addition to the punishment for the DUI charge); and
  • all suspects face a longer administrative suspension of their driver’s license even if they are found not guilty at trial.

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