Former Missouri DWI Judge and ACLU Lawyer Talk Warrant Requirement For Breathalyzer; Scalia Balks
PR Log - Jan 10, 2013 - ST. Louis, Mo. -- DWI arrests make up an average of nearly ten percent of all arrests in Missouri each year. Today the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether Missouri's police must obtain a warrant before forcefully taking blood from a DWI arrestee.
Missouri law already compels DWI defendants to submit to a blood, urine or breathalyzer test at the risk of losing their license anywhere from 90 days to a year. Apparently, however, the loss of one's license is not enough for Missouri prosecutors who contend that they very much need alcohol-percentage evidence to get DWI convictions. Some Missouri prosecutors want police to have qualified medical personnel take blood from non-willing suspects without a court's order (a warrant).
Long time DWI Lawyer and former Judge Mike Carter pointed out that:
"It's already the case that police officers only need a 'reasonable suspicion' to take someone's driver license for up to a year. Now police want to stick needles in suspect's arms without a warrant? I have overseen these cases and was personally found innocent of a DWI by a jury in about nine minutes. Prosecutors have all the power in these cases in the first place -- the fact is prosecutors have been getting guilty verdicts withOUT alcohol-percentage tests for more years than they have with them. There simply is no compelling reason to take away citizens' fourth amendment rights more than the government already has when taking driver licenses away based on 'reasonable suspicion'. The ACLU attorney in this United States Supreme Court case was closer to right when he indicated warrants should be required for breathalyzer and urine tests too. Although Scalia clearly didn't buy into the idea."
The Missouri DWI case that the United States Supreme Court heard involved a DWI suspect (Tyler G. McNeely) who refused to volunteer for breath or blood tests and so police took him to the hospital, handcuffed and forced him to submit to a blood test. The police never obtained a search warrant prior to the blood draw. The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether that was an unreasonable search in light of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
DWIs are one of the most common crimes committed in the US, but they usually aren't committed by what the general public typically sees as criminals. Ordinary, respectable citizens often find themselves being charged with this incredibly serious offense -- judges, gubernatorial & senatorial candidates, football coaches, football players, grandmas, grandpas, moms and dads.
"Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike have begun to sense a growing dissatisfaction with DWI laws among jurors hearing DWI cases across the state. During initial jury interviews, jurors routinely acknowledge knowing someone who has been adversely affected by a DWI allegation," said Carter.
Mike Carter is an independent-minded citizen/lawyer that values prohibiting governments' intrusion into citizens' privacy above nearly all else. He is a former judge, real estate attorney, corporate counsel, Director at the St. Louis Board of REALTORS and Senior Lecturer at the University of Missouri St. Louis. In 2009, during Carter's tenure as municipal judge in the City of Wentzville, Carter fought a bad DWI charge and was found innocent of driving while intoxicated in nine minutes by a jury. As an attorney, judge, and former defendant he knows the entire process intimately.