Jan 092013
 January 9, 2013  Posted by  Court, Surveillance, U.S.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments (transcript, pdf) today in Missouri v. McNeely .  The issue is whether police can take a blood sample in cases of suspected driving under the influence (DUI) without a warrant.  Lyle Denniston provides his recap of how it went:

Even allowing for the reality that what is said at a Supreme Court hearing does not necessarily dictate the outcome, now and then a case comes along where the Justices join so obviously in a common pursuit of a compromise that little suspense remains.  That happened on Wednesday, in the case of Missouri v. McNeely (docket 11-1425), when it seemed quite predictable that the Court is not going to let police across the nation order — on their own authority — the taking of blood samples from those suspected of drunk driving.   Police, it would appear, are at least going to have to try to get a search warrant, even though they sometimes will be allowed to do without one.

Most of the hour-long argument was spent in imagining the details of such a compromise outcome: start with the premise that getting a warrant is the preferred approach, but then define a set of “exigent circumstances” that will excuse the inability to get one within a fairly brief time — perhaps no more than a half-hour.  There would be no authorization, it appeared, for warrantless blood samples, across the board, on the premise that alcohol is always going to be disappearing fairly rapidly from the human bloodstream.

Read more on SCOTUSblog.

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