The Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments on Wednesday about whether or not police needs a search warrant before subjecting a motorist to a blood test. But as Missouri prosecutors and a Justice Department lawyer try to convince the high court to set aside the requirement for a search warrant in DUI cases, the justices have expressed reluctance in issuing a favorable rule over the appeal, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, on the other hand, worries about the effects of a court decision in favor of blood tests. She pointed out that blood test is more intrusive than breath tests, which is what most jurisdictions rely on. She told the Missouri prosecutor that a ruling “by us in your favor is going to change that” and encourage routine use of blood tests.
The case before the court, Missouri vs. McNeely, started when a state patrolman stopped Tyler McNeely for speeding about 2 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2010. The motorist failed the roadside sobriety tests and refused to take a breath test. The officer then decided to take McNeely to a hospital for a blood alcohol test despite the absence of a warrant.
In every state, including Missouri, refusing to take a breath alcohol test can result in the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. Typically, an officer instructs a driver who appears to be drunk to get out of the vehicle, walk a straight line and recite the alphabet. If the motorist fails those tests, s/he is asked to blow air into a device that measures alcohol in the blood. A blood test is an option for when a driver refuses to take a breath test and an officer must obtain a search warrant before forcing a motorist to undergo the procedure.
The ruling for Missouri vs. McNeely is expected to be out by spring.