Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California, Including the Counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles & Orange

California DUI Law: The New McNeely Law

California DUI's & The New McNeely Craze

The Supreme Court has recently handed down a decision that is going to have a direct impact on the way DUI cases are being litigate. In Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver violated the driver's 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Tyler G. McNeely was arrested for drunk driving on October 3, 2010, the arresting officer asked McNeely to take a breath test and when McNeely refused the Officer asked for a blood sample, and again McNeely refused. The Officer then took McNeely to a hospital and told a nurse to take a blood sample without McNeely's consent. During his trial, McNeely's lawyer sought to have the blood evidence suppressed claiming that the blood sample was taken in violation of McNeely's 4th Amendment right protecting him against reasonable search and seizures.

The State argued that the blood sample fell under the exigent circumstances exception, claiming that the evidence, the alcohol in McNeely's blood stream, would be destroyed, or in this case metabolized, in the time it would take to get a search warrant. Also, the State put forth that drunk driving was a compelling government interest

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the matter. The Supreme Court gave great deference to the 4th Amendment stating "the importance of requiring authorization by a 'neutral and detached magistrate' before allowing a law enforcement officer to 'invade another's body in search of evidence of guilt is indisputable and great.' Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14-14 (1948).

However, they also made it clear that the exceptions to the 4th Amendment are prevalent and necessary. "[A] warrantless search is potentially reasonable because 'there is compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant.'" Michigan v. Tyler, 436 U.S. 499, 509.

The Court recognized that there could not be a strict rule that could be applied to every instance, "[t]o determine whether a law enforcement officer faced an emergency that justified acting without a warrant, this Court looks the totality of circumstances." Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 406 (2006).

In fact there was a case in which the Court found that there was no warrant necessary to take a Defendant's blood. In Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, the warrantless blood test was deemed permissible as the "officer '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.'" Quoting, Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 367 (1964). This does not mean that "mere dissipation of blood-alcohol evidence" is enough to support a warrantless blood draw. Missouri v. McNeely, 358 S. W. 3d 65, at 70; rather "extingency depends heavily on the existence of addition 'special facts,' such as whether the officer was delayed the need to investigate an accident and transport an injured suspect to the hospital." Id., at 70.

As such, the Court ruled 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." McNeely v. Missouri, 569 U.S. ______ (2013).

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