Police Officers Must First Obtain a Warrant Before Conducting a Blood Test

On April 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that police officers must first obtain a warrant before conducting a blood test against the will of an individual arrested for driving under the influence. In an 8-1 decision, the Court held that guidelines giving the police broad discretion to forgo getting a warrant were unconstitutional. The natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood stream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify the conducting of a blood test without a warrant. The Court affirmed the standard “ totality of the circumstances” standard must be applied in evaluating when police must seek a warrant before drawing blood.

The Court’s ruling, however, was vague to the point that Chief Justice Roberts stated in a concurring opinion that a police officer, after reading the Court’s opinion, would have no idea what he was required to do once he decided to obtain a blood sample from a drunk driving suspect who has refused a Breathalyzer test.

This appeal involved a Missouri driver who was stopped by investigating police officers and taken to a nearby hospital for a blood test after failing four field sobriety tests at the scene of the stop and later refused breath testing. The blood test was ordered over the objection of the driver and revealed a BAC of .154.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this case will have on the DUI laws of Pennsylvania.

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