California DUI Defense Lawyer From Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP Praises U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, Police Must Seek Warrants Before DUI Blood Testing

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The U.S. Supreme Court case of Missouri v. McNeely decided that nonconsensual and warrantless blood draws could not usually be conducted, even in the case of a suspected drunk driver. California DUI defense lawyer James Knox of Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP applauds this victory for constitutional rights.

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The Supreme Court recognized that the metabolization of alcohol in blood does not automatically make this type of search and seizure reasonable in every case.

The U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion in Missouri v. McNeely (No. 11–1425) on April 17, 2013. The justices decided that police should not be allowed to obtain an unconsented and warrantless blood sample from a DUI suspect. Before forcing drunk-driving suspects to have blood drawn, police must try to obtain a search warrant, with few exceptions. The case confirmed the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures, said California DUI defense lawyer James Knox of Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP.

“It certainly sounds unreasonable to insert a needle into someone's arm merely because they are suspected of being intoxicated. Few searches could be more invasive than puncturing the skin of a person's body,” said Knox.

According to Bloomberg, the defendant, Tyler McNeely, was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. After failing field sobriety tests, he then refused a breath test. The officer took him to a hospital, and McNeely refused to take a blood test. Without consent or a warrant, the officer instructed the lab technician to take the blood sample.

In McNeely, the state of Missouri argued that there was an immediate need to obtain evidence of a suspect’s blood alcohol level – without consent or a warrant – because alcohol dissipates into the blood over time, destroying evidence against drunk driving suspects. They honed in on the concept of "exigent circumstances.” Certain exigent circumstances may make a search and seizure reasonable and, therefore, constitutional without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment only forbids "unreasonable" searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the ephemeral nature of intoxication alone does not present an immediate need that would justify an exemption to the Fourth Amendment. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion that sided with the defense and suppressed a warrantless test.

“The Supreme Court recognized that the metabolization of alcohol in blood does not automatically make this type of search and seizure reasonable in every case. A blood draw is a search that does not necessitate urgency in every case, and police must usually get a warrant if the suspect refuses the test,” said Knox.

The attorneys at Miligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP are available to assist drivers wrongfully accused of DUI and those whose rights have been violated. Contact the San Bernardino, California drunk driving defense law firm of Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP at (909) 889-1178 or (909) 888-5741.
About Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP

California DUI defense lawyers at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox in San Bernardino represent people who have been arrested for driving under the influence. All attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox are trained in criminal defense or criminal prosecution. Partner Stephen Levine is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense, an honor given to only the top criminal defense attorneys in California. Of counsel to the firm is Jon Hegness, who practiced for 33 years as deputy district attorney with San Bernardino County. Throughout the firm, the DUI defense lawyers’ focus is on protecting clients’ rights and helping them achieve the results they need and deserve.

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