Jeffrey A. Hines

In Missouri v. McNeely, decided Wednesday, April 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the natural dissipation of alcohol by the human body was not a sufficient cause to waive the requirement of a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from a DWI suspect.

The case arose from the arrest of Tyler G. McNeely, who was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and exhibited, the State Supreme Court said, “the telltale signs of intoxication–bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath.” He performed poorly on a field sobriety test and was arrested.

McNeely refused to take a breath test and, after being transported to a hospital, to consent to a blood test. One was performed anyway, about 25 minutes after he was pulled over, and it showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent, almost twice the legal limit.

The state court suppressed the evidence, saying there had been no “exigent circumstances” that excused the failure to obtain a warrant. “Warrantless intrusions of the body are not to be taken lightly,” the Court said in an unsigned opinion.

See the entire opinion here.