Fourth Amendment Victory: Citing Bodily Integrity, U.S. Supreme Court Prohibits Police from Forcibly Taking Warrantless Blood Samples from DUI Suspects


U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building.

Never, never, ever, under any circumstances blow. — jtl, 419

via the Rutherford Institute

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In yet another victory for the Fourth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that police may not forcibly take blood from a drunk driving suspect without a warrant. Insisting that the Fourth Amendment requires judicial authorization for such drastic action except in emergency situations, the Court rejected arguments by state officials asking it to establish a per se rule that all cases of drunk driving present “exigent circumstances” allowing police to extract blood from a suspect without a warrant.

The Rutherford Institute filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of Tyler McNeely, who was forced to give a blood sample after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Although McNeely refused to submit to a blood test, the arresting officer ordered hospital personnel to extract his blood anyway and test it for alcohol levels. In weighing in on the case, Rutherford Institute attorneys argued that the state’s interests in ensuring public safety and discouraging drunk driving could have been realized in a manner that secured the desired blood alcohol evidence while at the same time protecting McNeely’s constitutional rights in keeping with the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement and prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

In accord with the Institute’s brief, the Supreme Court’s majority opinion held that forced extraction of a person’s blood is “an invasion of bodily integrity [that] implicates an individual’s most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy” and, absent some emergency, should not be allowed unless a judge has found probable cause to justify the intrusion.

“While public safety is of great concern, especially when it comes to serious offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol, Americans’ constitutional rights cannot be wholly discounted and conveniently discarded,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This case has far-reaching implications that go beyond one man’s run-in with the police. The Supreme Court is to be commended for recognizing that if we allow government agents broad powers to invade our bodies without consent or court order, the bodily integrity of all persons in the United States will be in serious jeopardy.”

Tyler McNeely was driving on an early morning in October 2010 when he was stopped by a Missouri state highway patrolman. Based upon his behavior, the patrolman suspected that McNeely was intoxicated. The patrolman led McNeely through a series of field sobriety tests and based upon the results, arrested him for drunk driving. After McNeely refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, the patrolman took him to a nearby hospital in order to secure a sample of his blood and test it for alcohol levels. Although McNeely refused to consent to a blood test, the patrolman ordered a hospital lab technician to take a blood sample from McNeely. At no point did the officer attempt to obtain a warrant authorizing the extraction. In weighing in on the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Rutherford Institute attorneys stressed that forcible bodily intrusions of the kind inflicted on McNeely are among the most serious abuses of government authority which the Fourth Amendment was meant to forbid, and that such intrusions should be allowed only in extremely urgent circumstances. Institute attorneys also noted that enforcement of drunk driving laws does not suffer when warrants for blood extraction are required, many of which can be obtained within a relatively short time, often within 30 minutes of an arrest.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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4 Responses to Fourth Amendment Victory: Citing Bodily Integrity, U.S. Supreme Court Prohibits Police from Forcibly Taking Warrantless Blood Samples from DUI Suspects

  1. phynedyning says:

    “…the Court rejected arguments by state officials asking it to establish a per se rule that all cases of drunk driving present “exigent circumstances” allowing police to extract blood from a suspect without a warrant.”

    The ‘exigent circumstances’ asserted by state officials never existed. So, is SCOTUS different from other courts in that one may knowingly make false statements to the Court?


    Ethanol alcohol metabolism follows two basic rules 1) The peak in the blood alcohol level caused by one drink will not be reached until 30 to 45 minutes have passed. (The rate of absorption can be decreased, not increased.) and 2) The rate of ethanol absorption will always surpass the rate of ethanol metabolism regardless of how much alcohol is consumed. (The rate of alcohol reduction is quite slow.)

    E.M.P. Widmark (1932) derived an equation for ethanol metabolism. Watson (et al) revisited “Widmark’s Law” in 1981 and made the calculations more precise. Specifically, replacing Widmark’s gender-specific reduction coefficient with an individually determined reduction coefficient based on body mass, age, gender, and height. Both methods are based on the fact that humans reduce ethanol at a nearly constant rate, 0.015 g/100ml/hr (regularly approximated to one ‘drink’ per hour).

    So, the accused person’s last drink will not be fully absorbed for at least 30-45 minutes and only one drink will be metabolized in that one hour. This gives the edict enforcers up to 2 hours before their suspect can metabolize his/her last drink (let alone begin metabolizing the previous amount ingested (remember Rule 2?). The body does not metabolize according to FIFO (first in, first out). It metabolizes only the absorbed amount in circulation. A minimum of two hours is plenty of time in any jurisdiction for a doughnut-gorged edict enforcer to get a warrant.

    ‘Exigent circumstances’ my ass. The tongues of the lying state officials should have chased them out of the Court’s presence. So, yes, you can perjure yourself before the SCOTUS…but only if you are a ‘state official’.


  2. Gunny G says:

    Reblogged this on AMERICAN BLOGGER: GUNNY.G ~ WEBLOG.EMAIL and commented:
    GyG !!!!! !!!!!


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