Although I usually write articles about cases I have handled personally,
this case of the month deals with the United States Supreme Court case of
Missouri v. McNeely. The facts of the McNeely case are straightforward. Mr. McNeely was stopped for
driving under the influence of alcohol. During the course of the investigation, Mr. McNeely repeatedly refused
to submit to a chemical test of any kind. At the police station,
blood was drawn from Mr. McNeely without a warrant.
The case which was relied upon to circumvent the warrant requirement was
Schmerber v. California, a 1966 United States Supreme Court case. In this case, the court authorized
the drawing of blood without a warrant because the officer was confronted
with an emergency situation (an accident) and the delay necessary to obtain
a warrant may have necessitated a destruction of evidence, namely blood.
Since the human body eliminates alcohol at a relatively constant level,
any delay in obtaining blood from a defendant would necessarily result
in its destruction.
In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that in the McNeely case,
the mere possible destruction of evidence (there was no accident as in
the Schmerber case) was insufficient, in and of itself, to justify a warrantless
draw of the defendant's blood. The Supreme Court asserted the taking
of blood from a person is one of the most intrusive searches that can
be done. Hence, protection from unlawful searches and seizures requires
This case has all the indicia of being a blockbuster in the area of DUI
defense. Undoubtedly, there will be significant further interpretations.
The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs will continue to monitor this and other
cases in order to best protect our clients' rights.