The defendant was involved in an accident and transported to the hospital. At the hospital, officers arrested him for driving an automobile while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. At the direction of an officer, a physician took a blood sample from the defendant’s body. The chemical analysis of the sample indicated the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Whether the warrantless, nonconsensual blood sample taken from the defendant violated the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures?
No. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the government from conducting minor intrusions into an individual’s body under stringently limited conditions.
The officers had probable cause to arrest the defendant and charge him with driving an automobile while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The officer who arrived at the scene shortly after the accident smelled liquor on the defendant’s breath and testified that the defendant exhibited symptoms of intoxication. The officer believed that he was confronted with an exigency. The Court stated “[T]he officer in the present case, however, might reasonably have believed that he was confronted with an emergency, in which the delay necessary to obtain a warrant, under the circumstances, threatened ‘the destruction of evidence,’” citing Preston v. United States, (1964). Therefore, the attempt to secure evidence of blood-alcohol content in this case was appropriate.
The test chosen to measure the defendant’s blood-alcohol level was a reasonable one. Extraction of blood samples for testing is a highly effective means of determining the degree to which a person is under the influence of alcohol. The quantity of blood extracted is minimal and the procedure involves virtually no risk, trauma, or pain. Finally, the test was performed in a reasonable manner. The blood was taken by a physician at a hospital according to accepted medical practices. Therefore, there was no violation of the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.
384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (1966)