Justice Sotomayer wrote the opinion:
We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the 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.
The judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
In this case, McNeeley refused to consent to a blood draw. Law enforcement had his blood drawn, against his will, at a hospital and the results were almost twice the legal limit. McNeeley was successful in barring the blood results from being entered by the trial judge. The government appealed and the State Supreme Court of Missouri agreed with the trial judge. Then the government asked that the case be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and SCOTUS agreed.
That said, this ruling does not mean that there won't ever be a blood draw without a warrant. Instead, careful consideration to the facts of the case are to be considered prior to drawing blood without a warrant.
But motorists’ diminished expectation of privacy does not diminish their privacy interest in preventing a government agent from piercing their skin. And though a blood test conducted in a medical setting by trained personnel is less intrusive than other bodily invasions, this Court has never retreated from its recognition that any compelled intrusion into the human body implicates significant, constitutionally protected privacy interests. Finally, the government’s general interest in combating drunk driving does not justify departing from the warrant requirement without showing exigent circumstances that make securing a warrant impractical in a particular case.
This case now puts the government on notice that the default will be to obtain a warrant prior to drawing blood and if that does not occur, the government better be prepared to defend why it was not able to obtain a warrant prior to the blood draw.