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US Supreme Court Will Review Warrantless Blood Alcohol Tests

Many states have laws that compel a driver, who has been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, to submit to a blood alcohol test. In January 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court held that compelling such a test is actually an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

A legal expert noted that the intrusion to the body by compelling a blood test is the greatest invasion of privacy that exists. The state had argued that because the level of alcohol in the blood rapidly dissipates, there is a sense of "urgency" creating an exception to the warrant requirement. The state relied on a 1966 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which the state claimed allowed such warrantless searches and seizures.

In its decision holding the law unconstitutional, the Missouri Supreme Court held that the state misinterpreted the previous decision. The 1966 case had allowed a warrantless blood test from a man who had been in a car wreck based on "special facts" specific to that case. In the more recent case, the Missouri court held it could not find any "exigent circumstances" justifying the warrantless blood alcohol test.

Various state courts have issued conflicting opinions about whether or not a forced blood alcohol test violates the Fourth Amendment. To settle the issue, in September 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the Missouri state decision.

Anyone who has been forced to submit to a blood alcohol test should seek legal counsel. An experienced defense attorney can examine the case and determine if Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

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

For more information, please visit our Tampa DUI defense page.

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