Missouri v. McNeely

Updated 08/03/2020

In 2013, the Missouri vs. McNeely case was decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled that using blood tests obtained without a driver’s consent is a violation of their 4th Amendment rights. This followed an appeal for the decision made by the Supreme Court of Missouri, which issued a similar ruling.

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The initial case centered around Tyler McNeely, who was stopped for speeding in October 2010, and exhibited signs of intoxication. The officer who stopped McNeely conducted a field sobriety test, which McNeely failed, and following this requested that McNeely blow into a breathalyzer, which McNeely refused, and further stated that he would continue to refuse the test at the police station. At this point, the officer took McNeely directly to a medical center for blood testing and explained that refusing the test would result in a one-year suspension of his license. McNeely continued to refuse, and eventually, the officer instructed the staff of the medical center to take the sample anyway. Testing revealed that McNeely’s BAC was over the legal limit of .08.

When McNeely’s case went to trial, the judge initially moved to have the results of the test suppressed, given that McNeely’s refusal made the test a violation of his 4th Amendment rights. Prosecutors argued that the administration of the test was legal without a warrant, as McNeely’s eventual metabolism of the alcohol in his system would have resulted in the destruction of evidence. The case went through a series of appeals until eventually, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled to uphold the first judge’s initial decision to suppress the results of the test. This was again appealed, at which point the case sent to the Supreme Court. The final ruling concluded that blood draws without a warrant or consent in DUI cases were a violation of a suspect’s 4th Amendment rights.

While this ruling makes it illegal for a court to use evidence from a blood draw collected without consent, it does not negate existing laws in Missouri that allow for a one-year license suspension for refusal to consent to such a search. Drivers must keep this in mind as they weigh their options at a DUI stop. When in doubt, it is best to ask to use your right to an attorney before consenting to any searches. This will buy you time and all you to seek legal counsel before making any decisions that may incriminate you.