US Supreme Court to hear case on drink-drive blood tests

Police cars

The US Supreme Court is to consider if police need a warrant before ordering a blood test on a drink-driving suspect.

Justices will hear the case of a Missouri man who was taken to hospital for a blood sample after refusing to provide a breath test.

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the exclusion of the blood sample at trial, finding that the arresting officer should have sought a warrant.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear Missouri v McNeely in January.

The legal saga began when Tyler McNeely was pulled over on suspicion of speeding on 3 October 2010.

After refusing a breath test, he was taken to a nearby hospital where his blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.154%, almost twice the state's legal limit.

Siding with the defendant, Missouri's Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to take a suspect's blood, except in cases where a delay could threaten life or destroy evidence.

Mr McNeely's lawyers said the reason the arresting officer made no effort to obtain a warrant was because he was unaware one was needed, not because he was concerned alcohol would dissipate in the accused's bloodstream.

In its appeal to the US high court, Missouri argued that the decision by its supreme court "requires police officers to stand by and allow the best, most probative evidence to be destroyed during a drunk-driving investigation".

Other US courts have ruled that the lowering of blood alcohol levels over time justifies police ordering a blood test without a warrant.

More than 1.4 million people are arrested each year in the US for drink and drug-driving charges, according to the FBI.

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