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Missouri v. McNeely

Supreme Court of the United States

January 9, 2013, Argued; April 17, 2013, Decided

No. 11-1425

Opinion

 [*144]  Justice Sotomayor announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-A, II-B, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Parts  [*145]  II-C and III, in which Justice Scalia, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Kagan join.

In Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826, 16 L. Ed. 2d 908 (1966), this Court upheld a warrantless blood test of an individual arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol because the officer “might reasonably have believed that he was confronted with an emergency, in which the delay necessary to obtain a warrant, under the circumstances, threatened the destruction of evidence.” Id., at 770, 86 S. Ct. 1826, 16 L. Ed. 2d 908 (internal quotation  [****8] marks omitted). The question presented here is whether the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream presents a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases. We conclude that it does not, and we hold, consistent with general Fourth Amendment principles, that exigency in this context must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.

While on highway patrol at approximately 2:08 a.m., a Missouri police officer stopped McNeely’s truck after observing it exceed the posted speed limit and repeatedly cross the centerline. The officer noticed several signs that McNeely was intoxicated, including McNeely’s bloodshot eyes, his slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on his breath. McNeely acknowledged to the officer that he had consumed “a couple of beers” at a bar, App. 20, and he appeared unsteady on his feet when he exited the truck. After McNeely performed poorly on a battery of  [**1557]  field-sobriety tests and declined to use a portable breath-test device to measure his blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the officer placed him under arrest.

The officer  [****9] began to transport McNeely to the station house. But when McNeely indicated that he would again refuse to provide a breath sample, the officer changed course  [*146]  and took McNeely to a nearby hospital for blood testing. The officer did not attempt to secure a warrant. Upon arrival at the hospital, the officer asked McNeely whether he would consent to a blood test. Reading from a standard implied consent form, the officer explained to McNeely that under [***703]  state law refusal to submit voluntarily to the test would lead to the immediate revocation of his driver’s license for one year and could be used against him in a future prosecution. See Mo. Rev. Stat. §§577.020.1, 577.041 (2012). McNeely nonetheless refused. The officer then directed a hospital lab technician to take a blood sample, and the sample was secured at approximately 2:35 a.m. Subsequent laboratory testing measured McNeely’s BAC at 0.154 percent, which was well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. See §577.012.1.

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569 U.S. 141 *; 133 S. Ct. 1552 **; 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 ***; 2013 U.S. LEXIS 3160 ****; 81 U.S.L.W. 4250; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 150; 2013 WL 1628934

MISSOURI, Petitioner v. TYLER G. McNEELY

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI

State v. McNeely, 358 S.W.3d 65, 2012 Mo. LEXIS 3 (Mo., 2012)

Disposition: 358 S.W.3d 65, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

blood, alcohol, exigency, Fourth Amendment, drunk-driving, cases, blood test, circumstances, arrest, exigent circumstances, warrant requirement, warrantless, police officer, dissipation, percent, warrantless search, destroyed, warrants, driving, probable cause, totality of the circumstances, blood testing, drunk driving, blood sample, bloodstream, testing, driver, draws, destruction of evidence, nonconsensual

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Expectation of Privacy, Evidence, Scientific Evidence, Bodily Evidence, Blood Alcohol, Search Warrants, General Overview, Exigent Circumstances, Warrantless Searches, Exigent Circumstances, Reasonable & Prudent Standard, Warrants, Destruction of Evidence