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MISSOURI v. MCNEELY

Last week, the US Supreme Court issued MISSOURI v. MCNEELY.   The case may have interesting repercussions for military jurisprudence……

The appellant was stopped for speeding and crossing the center-line. After he refused to take a breath test to measure his blood alcohol concentration (BAC), he was arrested and taken to a nearby hospital for blood testing.  The arresting officer never attempted to secure a search warrant. McNeely continued to refuse consent to the BAT.  His BAC tested well above the legal limit, and he was charged with DWI.  He 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 a true emergency.

The State Supreme Court affirmed.  This case, the state court found, involved a routine DWI investigation where no factors other than the natural dissipation of blood alcohol suggested an emergency.

The U.S. Supreme Court  affirmed.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR delivered the opinion of the Court.   In drunk driving investigations, natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify a warrant-less blood test. To per se rule can be applied  — cases must be decided individually, and natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood does not mandate an exigency finding.  Motorists still possess a constitutional privacy interest in preventing the government from piercing their skin for testing.


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