Bad News for Vampire Cops Everywhere

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com">tanshtyl </a>/Shutterstock

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


So this is where the Roberts Court draws the line on civil liberties: warrantless, forced blood tests. The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in Missouri v. McNeely, on whether someone arrested for drunk driving can be forced to provide blood samples without consent or a warrant.

Missouri’s top court had unanimously rejected a argument by the state that there should be a categorical exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement in all DWI cases. And it looks as though the highest court in the land will go the same way.

According to SCOTUSblog, “Even allowing for the reality that what is said at a Supreme Court hearing does not necessarily dictate the outcome, now and then a case comes along where the Justices join so obviously in a common pursuit of a compromise that little suspense remains.” Bad news for vampire cops.

Lawyers for the state and federal government “endlessly repeat[ed] the claim that there would never be enough time to get a warrant before alcohol content would dissipate, [but it] seemed to impress not one member of the Court,” according to SCOTUSblog.

The justices saw the “use of a needle to take a blood sample as quite an intrusive gesture by the government,” and were not cool with the Fourth Amendment being junked in all drunk driving cases when cops want a blood draw.

Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU’s Legal Director, who is representing the respondent, Tyler McNeely, said in a statement that even beyond civil liberties, forbidding warrantless blood tests would not hamper law enforcement: “There’s no evidence that those delays [in getting a warrant] interfere with the state’s ability to enforce drunk driving laws.”

Twenty-six states already ban the drawing of blood without a warrant. “Once we say police don’t need a warrant,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia warned, “the game’s over.” (But he, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and the ACLU’s Shapiro all agreed that there could be exceptions for emergency circumstances in which obtaining a warrant took too long.)

“The interest that is being preserved is a very important principle,” Shapiro said. “That before the government conducts a search, and especially a search [so] intrusive that [it] involves putting a needle in your arm over your objection when you’re restrained, that decision ought not to be made by the police themselves absent a true emergency, but ought to be reviewed and approved by a judge. That’s the principle under which our constitutional law operates.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate