U.S. Supreme Court to address question of warrantless blood tests

Over the past months we have discussed Tennessee’s new “No Refusal” policy throughout several posts. If police suspect a driver of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and the driver refuses to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, the law gives police the ability to request a search warrant to force the suspect to be tested.

Some states have taken this policy even further, and no longer even require that police obtain a warrant before forcing a driver to take a blood test. Missouri is one state that gives police this power, and the United States Supreme Court is going to hear the case to determine if such a policy violates the federal constitution.

Critics of the law argue it violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Those in law enforcement argue that they should not have to wait to get a warrant for a blood draw because of the speed at which alcohol dissipates in the bloodstream. Lower courts have disagreed on the issue of law’s constitutionality.

Although the Supreme Court has often sided with police in the area of warrants in recent years, experts question whether warrantless blood tests may be treated differently because they involve an intrusion into a person’s body. “Invasion of the body is the greatest invasion of privacy there could be,” explained a criminal justice specialist from Case Western Reserve University.

Although the Supreme Court is hearing a Missouri case, its decision on the issue could have far reaching implications across the country. If found constitutional, other states may enact similar laws allowing warrantless blood draws of suspects.

Source: Reuters, “Supreme Court to address blood testing for drunk driving,” Terry Baynes and Jonathan Stempel, September 25, 2012

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