According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court's order to suppress the results of a forced blood draw. The case, Missouri v. McNeely, involves a situation in Missouri where a suspected drunk driver refused to voluntarily provide a sample of his breath or blood for testing. A blood technician then involuntarily took Mr. McNeely’s blood. Lawyers for the ACLU argue that such a forced draw without a warrant violates the 4th Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches. The prosecutors argue that requiring a warrant is unreasonable, because the blood alcohol evidence will be diminished in the time needed to get the warrant.
This issue was addressed by the Supreme Court in their 1966 Schmerber v. California decision. In that case, the Court held that a warrantless and non-consented blood draw is constitutional if: (1) It is done in a reasonable, medically approved manner, (2) is incident to a lawful arrest, and (3) is based upon reasonable belief the arrestee is intoxicated. This decision was followed in California in the case of People v. Ford. Ford held that to be reasonable, the privacy right involved must be weighed against the public need for evidence. The first factor to consider is the extent to which the procedure may threaten the safety or health of the individual. The next factor is the extent of the intrusion upon the individual's dignitary interests in personal privacy and bodily integrity. They went on the hold that the public has a substantial interest in seeing their drunken driving laws enforced. Ultimately, the Ford Court held that drawing blood from a non-consenting, but non-resisting individual, by a medical technician, in a police department, is permissible.
It will be interesting to see in the coming months whether the side challenging forced blood draws will attempt to distinguish the present case from Schmerber, or will seek to overturn that decision entirely. Stay tuned...
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