The Supreme Court recently decided a case Missouri v. McNeely, 567 U.S. ____ (2012) holding that police officers cannot normally conduct blood-alcohol tests without a warrant. After being stopped by a police officer for speeding and crossing the centerline the officer noticed several signs that McNeely was intoxicated, including McNeely’s bloodshot eyes, his slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on his breath.
McNeely admitted to the officer that he had consumed “a couple of beers” at a bar, and he appeared unsteady on his feet when he exited the truck. The officer conducted field sobriety tests on McNeely who performed poorly on the tests and declined to use a portable breath-test device to measure his blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
The officer then placed him under arrest and transported McNeely to a nearby hospital for blood testing. Upon arrival at the hospital, the officer asked McNeely whether he would consent to a blood test. Reading from a standard implied consent form, the officer explained to McNeely that under state law refusal to submit voluntarily to the test would lead to the immediate revocation of his driver’s license for one year and could be used against him in a future prosecution.
McNeely refused to consent to the blood test, but the officer disregarded McNeely’s refusal and directed a lab technician to take a sample. McNeely’s BAC tested well above the legal limit, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). The officer never attempted to secure a search warrant.
His attorney moved to suppress the blood test result, arguing that taking his blood without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court agreed, concluding that the exigency exception to the warrant requirement did not apply because, apart from the fact that McNeely’s blood alcohol was dissipating, no circumstances suggested that the officer faced an emergency.
The justices affirmed the lower courts finding that in drunk-driving investigations, 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.
If you have been accused by the police in Maine of OUI, “Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs”, Habitual Offender (HO), Operating under Suspension (OAS), possession of a controlled drug or any alleged motor vehicle or criminal offense, feel free to call Attorney John Webb today at 207-283-6400 and arrange a free consultation to discuss your case or visit: www.nicholswebb.com or www.OUIhotline.com.