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Missouri v. McNeely


An officer stopped the defendant’s vehicle for speeding and repeatedly crossing the center line. The officer made several observations that led him to suspect the defendant was intoxicated. After performing poorly on several field sobriety tests, the officer asked the defendant to use a portable breath-test device. The defendant refused and the officer placed him under arrest. During transportation to the station house, the defendant again indicated he would not provide a breath sample. The officer changed course and took the defendant to a local hospital. There, the defendant refused to participate in a blood test. A lab technician drew blood from the defendant, which was used as evidence in a subsequent prosecution.


Whether the government was justified in the warrantless taking of evidence from the defendant’s person that was being destroying his body?


No. The government must demonstrate in each instance the difficulties in obtaining a warrant before an exigency is created.


“To determine whether a law enforcement officer faced an emergency that justified acting without a warrant, this Court looks to the totality of circumstances.” In doing so, the Court rejected a standard rule that would have excused the government from the warrant requirement in all drunk driving cases. The Court held that “while the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, as it did in Schmerber, it does not do so categorically. Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.” Exceptions may be granted where the government can demonstrate that exigent circumstances exist in a particular case because a warrant could not have been obtained within a reasonable amount of time. The government made no such showing here.


569 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013)

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