The Supreme Court decision Wednesday means that sometimes police will need to obtain a warrant in drunk-driving cases before administering a forced blood test – and that sometimes they won’t.
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to create a categorical rule that would have allowed police to force drunken drivers to submit to a blood test without first obtaining a warrant from a neutral judge.
Instead, the majority justices said police cannot automatically rely on the dissipation of a drunken-driving suspect’s blood-alcohol level to justify police action without a warrant.
State officials said that the dissipation of a suspect’s blood-alcohol level through metabolism marked the ongoing destruction of evidence and created an exigency that justified fast police action without a warrant.
The majority justices disagreed.
“We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant,” Justice Sotomayor said.
Boiled to its essence, the high-court decision means that sometimes the police will need to obtain a warrant before administering a forced blood test and that sometimes they won’t.