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High court to rule on warrantless blood draw in Missouri DWI case

A Missouri DWI case is making national headlines this month after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a dispute over forced blood draws for drunk driving suspects. The decision of the nation’s highest court could affect drivers’ privacy rights across the country.

The case at issue arose in 2010, when a Missouri man was pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He failed field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a breath test. The officer took him to a medical laboratory for a blood test even though the suspect objected.

The suspect, represented by the ACLU, has argued that the nonconsensual blood draw violates the Constitution. Typically law enforcement officials are not allowed to conduct intrusive bodily searches, such as blood tests, without a warrant. To allow them to do so in impaired driving cases would strip away fundamental rights from motorists, including those who have been wrongly accused.

The state’s highest court ruled in favor of the defendant, agreeing that officers usually must seek a warrant for blood draws. However, the state believes they could lose important evidence in the time it takes to get a warrant.

The Supreme Court’s decision will clarify the issue for states that do not already have laws prohibiting warrantless, nonconsensual blood tests, including Missouri. This could have serious implications for the 1.4 million Americans who are arrested for driving under the influence.

If you have been pulled over on suspicion of DWI, it helps to know your basic rights and what law enforcement officials can and can’t do. An experienced defense attorney can help you preserve those rights and work towards the best possible outcome in any resulting criminal charges.

Source: Bloomberg, “Forced Blood Test in Drunk Driving Case Gets Court Review,” Greg Stohr, Sep. 25, 2012

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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