State v. McNeely 358 S. W. 3d 65 MO. (2012) Facts: The defendant was stopped by a Missouri state highway patrolman for speeding and during this stop the trooper noticed that the defendant was displaying all the tell-tale signs of being intoxicated; blood shot eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on his breath. This stop then changed from being a speeding stop to a DWI investigation. The trooper had the defendant get out of his truck and perform standard field sobriety tests.
The defendant did poorly on the test so the trooper arrested him for driving while intoxicated then, he asked him to take a breathalyzer which the defendant refused. The trooper then drove the defendant to the hospital to obtain a blood test to verify its alcohol content level. Once at the hospital the defendant refused the blood test but the trooper demanded it be done anyway, without securing a warrant, based on what he believed was a recent change in the law since time is critical to blood-alcohol content levels.
The blood sample was analyzed and the defendant’s blood alcohol content was well over the legal limit. The trooper believed at the time that officers no longer needed to obtain warrants for nonconsensual blood test, due to a change in Missouri’s implied consent laws FN2. This belief was based on an article written by a traffic safety resource prosecutor. The defendant moved to suppress the results of the blood alcohol test as evidence, citing that the blood draw was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
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The trial court sustained the motion. The Circuit Court, Cape Girardeau County and state appealed. Issues Did the State Trooper violate the defendants Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures with the warrantless blood draw? Is the natural dissipation of blood-alcohol evidence alone a sufficient necessity to dispense with the warrant requirement under the fourth amendment? Rule The Fourth amendment to the United States Constitution ensures the right of people to be secure in their person…against unreasonable searches and eizures. This includes not only a person’s dwelling but also includes the intrusion of a person’s body when no emergency exists. The United States Supreme Court has continually stated that” any searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by a magistrate are per se unreasonable under the fourth amendment subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions. The limited exceptions to drawing a person’s blood without consent would rest on special facts where the officer reasonably believed there was probable cause that incriminating evidence would be found and that if the time needed to obtain a warrant would endanger life, allow a suspect to escape, or they were faced with an emergency situation where delaying to get a warrant would lead to destruction of evidence. Analysis
The testimony of the Trooper is that the defendant was under arrest for DWI after showing obvious signs of being intoxicated and then failing the field sobriety test when he refused the breathalyzer and blood test. The trooper, who has had over 17 years of experience in obtaining warrants for blood draws, believes that taking the defendant to the hospital for a blood test against his will, without a warrant, is justified because of an article recently published stating that the law had been changed.
The article was written by a traffic safety resource prosecutor and was published in “Traffic Safety News” referred to a Supreme Court case where a limited exception to the warrant requirement for taking nonconsensual blood samples in alcohol related arrests was allowed for special facts, that an officer would be faced with an emergency situation where delaying to obtain a warrant would threaten destruction of the evidence.
The trooper in this case was not faced with special facts because there was no accident to investigate and there was no medical attention needed to anyone so there was no delay that would threaten the destruction of the evidence. There is also no evidence that the trooper would not have been able to obtain a warrant if he had attempted to do so.
No case in Missouri supports a per se rule that the natural dissipation of blood-alcohol is alone sufficient to constitute exigent circumstance that would permit officers in every DWI case to take blood from a suspect without consent or a search warrant. Conclusion The defendant’s Fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches of his person was violated. The trial courts judgment to suppress is affirmed. The case is remanded.
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