Supreme Court to Decide if Police Need Warrant To Test Drivers’ Blood


The Supreme Court will consider whether police officers need a warrant before administering an involuntary blood test to a suspected drunk driver. Although the case deals with a routine interaction between police and motorists, the underlying legal issue will help define the scope of fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches involving forced blood tests, says the Christian Science Monitor. A Missouri highway patrol officer pulled Tyler McNeely over in 2010 for allegedly exceeding the speed limit by 11 miles per hour. Officer Mark Winder noticed signs that McNeely might be intoxicated. He asked the driver to take four field sobriety tests.

After McNeely performed poorly, the trooper asked the driver to submit to an alcohol breath test. When McNeely refused, the trooper took him to a clinic. When he refused to submit to a blood test, Winder directed a clinic staff member to draw blood without the suspect's permission. The test showed McNeely's blood-alcohol level was well above the legal limit. He was charged with driving while intoxicated. If convicted, it would be McNeely's third DWI offense and bring a potential four-year prison term. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed a trial judge's decision that the police were not justified in ordering a blood test without first obtaining a warrant.

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