Missouri v. McNeely: A Big Deal for DUIs

On Tuesday Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Missouri v. McNeely. At issue in the case is whether a police office can require a person suspected of drunk-driving to submit to a blood test in every DUI investigation. What’s the big deal? If the Supremes grant Missouri’s request, a person would no longer be able to refuse a chemical test: a police officer would be able to arrest a suspect and physically force them to give blood without first obtaining a search warrant from a judge.

In Colorado, there are limited circumstances when a chemical test can be required without a person’s consent or a warrant. For example, when a driver is suspected of vehicular homicide and DUI, C.R.S. 42-4-1301.1(3) authorizes a police officer to physically restrain a suspect in order to collect a blood sample. The proposed rule by Missouri would apply to all DUI investigations. That’s a big deal.

Proponents of this new rule primarily argue that (1) the societal interest in obtaining evidence in DUI cases outweighs the liberty interest of the individual suspect, and (2) a blood draw is a minimal intrusion. Opponents argue that (a) the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment is a bulwark against unconstrained governmental intrusion, (b) technological advancements now allow the police to obtain warrants quickly, (c) an exception to the warrant requirement should be very narrow, (d) and an ad hoc/totality-of-the-circumstances test is proper for obtaining a blood sample without a warrant in a DUI investigation. However it shakes out is a big deal for DUI cases across the country.


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