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Supreme Court looks at warrant requirements in context of state implied consent laws, P.2

| Jun 27, 2016 | Criminal Appeals |

In our previous post, we began looking a United States Supreme Court decision rendered just this week which dealt with the constitutionality of imposing criminal penalties upon drivers who refuse to submit to chemical testing. More specifically, the question was whether the U.S. Constitution requires law enforcement officers to obtain a search warrant to conduct chemical testing on suspected drunk drivers.

The court previously ruled in Missouri v. McNeely (2013) that police are generally required to obtain a search warrant before imposing a blood test on a suspected drunk driver to determine intoxication. In this recent case, the court affirmed that rule in the context of implied consent law, but clarified that law enforcement officers do not need to obtain a warrant in order to take breath tests. 

The rationale for the ruling is largely tied to the issue of privacy—breath testing is much less intrusive than blood and urine testing. Justice Alito, who authored the opinion, said that breath testing does not involve “significant privacy concerns” as urine and blood testing do. The court did acknowledge, however, that a search warrant would not be required in every single case—certain extraordinary circumstances could justify taking blood or urine samples without a warrant.

Privacy is a potentially important issue in criminal investigation and criminal defense cases. For criminal defendants, defending their constitutional right to privacy in searches and seizures can make a significant difference in the outcome of their case. It is important, though, for criminal defendants to always work with an experienced criminal defense or appeals attorney to build the strongest possible case at trial and upon appeal.


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