The United States Supreme Court seemed unlikely to allow law enforcement to typically force suspected drunk drivers to give a blood sample if officers hadn’t at least attempted to obtain a warrant from a judge after hearing arguments this week in a Missouri case.
The state of Missouri, along with support from the Obama administration, argued in defense of a case where a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer took a suspected drunk driver to a local hospital for blood tests after the driver failed field sobriety tests and refused a breathalyzer.
The officer did not obtain a search warrant before obtaining a blood sample. The high court is deciding whether administering such a test is an illegal “search and seizure,” which citizens are protected from under the Fourth Amendment.
Lawyers for the Obama administration and the state of Missouri argued that requiring a warrant would hinder efforts to crack down on drunk drivers because the delay of testing allows for the suspect’s blood alcohol content to dissipate in the blood.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in the driver’s favor a year ago, saying the blood test could not be used. The court ruled that because the situation was not emergent, the officer wasn’t justified in taking the sample without a warrant and an officer instead must typically seek a warrant.
The outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling could have far-reaching effects because states vary widely in drunk driving laws and obtaining samples from suspected impaired drivers.