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High Court to Hear Missouri Blood Draw Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether police officers must obtain a search warrant before forcibly taking blood samples from a drunk driving suspect. Legal analysts believe that the case will shape privacy rights for drivers across America.

The case stems from a 2010 matter involving a Missouri motorist who refused to take a breath test after being suspected for DUI. He was arrested and taken to a medical laboratory where his blood was drawn without his consent.

The high court will hear from the State of Missouri, which contends that the Constitution does not require the police to obtain a warrant to obtain DUI evidence (ostensibly because the exigent circumstance exception applies), since alcohol can quickly dissipate through the bloodstream. The Missouri Supreme Court found that the Fourth Amendment usually applies in these situations, so officers must commonly seek a warrant before obtaining blood samples without a driver's consent.

The case may have huge implications for DUI cases across the country, as more than 1.4 million Americans are arrested for DUI (according to the FBI). The decision may also affect "no refusal" strategies, where judges stand by at DUI checkpoints to issue search warrants. These protocols are employed to prevent suspects from thwarting potential DUI charges by refusing to take breath or urine tests (which tend to give quicker readings on blood alcohol levels). Blood tests commonly take time to arrange (sometimes two hours after the initial arrest) which gives a suspect time to lower their BAC before the test is conducted. In some instances, the suspect would not be considered legally drunk.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, the Supreme Court last ruled on this issue in 1966, and found that the warrant requirement did not apply.

Source: SFGate.com, Supreme Court to hear DUI blood draw case, September 25, 2012

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