In 2013, the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Missouri v. McNeely issued an important decision protecting the rights of drivers and limiting the ability of police officers to draw blood from drivers without a warrant. In Missouri v. McNeely,an Missouri police officer stopped a driver for speeding and crossing the centerline. The driver declined a breath test to measure blood alcohol concentration and the officer took the driver to the hospital for blood testing. Notably, the officer never obtained a search warrant and had the hospital draw the driver’s blood, even after he refused.
The driver’s results tested above the legal limit and he was charged with a DWI. At trial, the driver moved to suppress the blood test results based on the argument that the taking violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court agreed and suppressed the results. Eventually, the case made its way all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that the warrantless taking of the driver’s blood violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Court held that there were no exigent circumstances that justified the taking of blood without first obtaining a warrant. In this regard, the Court held that “natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” As such, the taking of the driver’s blood without a warrant was improper.
New Jersey To Retroactively Apply to DWI Ruling
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely, many state courts have been issuing decisions suppressing blood test results that have been obtained without warrants. Recently, New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that the holding in Missouri v. McNeely applies not only to future DWI cases in the state, but also retroactively to any cases that had not been decided when the Supreme Court issued its opinion two years ago.
The New Jersey court’s decision in State v. Adkins involved the arrest of a driver suspected of DWI. The officer obtained a blood sample without the driver’s consent and without obtaining a warrant. The driver’s blood alcohol content was nearly double the legal limit. The driver moved to suppress the blood tests results. The trial court agreed and the appellate court reversed the decision.
The state’s supreme court, however, agreed with the trial court. Addressing the Supreme Court’s decision in McNeely, the court wrote: “The United States Supreme Court has pronounced the standard to be applied under the Fourth Amendment to warrantless searches involving blood draws of suspected DWI drivers and, under Supremacy Clause principles, we are bound to follow it as the minimal amount of constitutional protection to be provided.” The supreme court sent the decision back to the trial court to determine if the officer had probable cause to draw blood for emergency circumstances.
If you have questions regarding DWI laws, it is important to reach out to an experienced DWI attorney who can help you understand your legal rights.