Missouri v. McNeely Case Brief

Facts of the case

On October 3, 2010, Missouri state police officer Mark Winder saw Tyler McNeely driving above the speed limit. When Winder followed McNeely to pull him over, he saw McNeely cross the center line three times. Upon making contact with McNeely, Wilder observed that his eyes were red and glassy, and that his breath smelled like alcohol. McNeely performed poorly on four field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a portable breath test. Wilder arrested McNeely for driving while intoxicated and transported him to a hospital to obtain a blood sample. Wilder read McNeely the Missouri Implied Consent statement, and McNeely still refused to submit the sample. Wilder ordered the sample taken anyway, and the blood test revealed McNeely’s blood alcohol level was far above the legal limit.The state charged McNeely with driving while intoxicated, and McNeely moved to suppress the evidence of the blood sample because it was obtained without a warrant. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion. The state appealed and argued that the risk of McNeely’s blood alcohol level decreasing over time represented an exigent circumstance requiring a blood draw. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred, but that the case represented a departure from current case law it transferred the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the trial court’s decision.

CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the appellate court’s decision. The Court held that while the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood could support a finding of exigency in a specific case, it did not do so categorically. Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect was reasonable had to be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances. Any compelled intrusion into the human body implicated significant, constitutionally protected privacy interests. The general importance of the interest in combating drunk driving did not justify departing from the warrant requirement without showing exigent circumstances that made securing a warrant impractical in a particular case. The Court observed that because the case was argued before it on the broad proposition that drunk-driving cases presented a per se exigency, the arguments and the record did not provide the Court with an adequate analytic framework for a detailed discussion of all the relevant factors that could be taken into account in determining the reasonableness of acting without a warrant.

  • Advocates: John N. Koester, Jr. for the petitioner Nicole A. Saharsky Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner Steven R. Shapiro for the respondent
  • Petitioner: Missouri
  • Respondent: Tyler G. McNeely
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: Cape Girardeau
Citation: 569 US 141 (2013)
Granted: Sep 25, 2012
Argued: Jan 9, 2013
Decided: Apr 17, 2013
Missouri v. McNeely Case Brief