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As part of Impaired Driving Prevention Month, Sobering Up is taking a look back at the year’s Top 12 Newsmakers in the fight against alcohol-involved crime and Impaired Driving. This post is Part 5 of 12.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) agreed to consider the case Missouri vs. McNeely, the outcome of which could have far reaching implications for drunk driving enforcement and prosecution. The court is scheduled to hear arguments on January 13th.

In this case, prosecutors in Missouri have appealed a lower court ruling that found forced blood draws for suspected drunk drivers to be in violation of the 4th Amendment as an “unreasonable search.”

The basic standard for a law enforcement officer to request BAC tests from a driver is that the officer has probable cause or reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was operating in violation of the state’s impaired driving law. No Refusal laws are intended to deter suspected drunk drivers of simply refusing to take a blood test to confirm their level of intoxication, claiming a warrant is required to compel them to comply. But the time to process a warrant when alcohol is involved generally means law enforcement is unable to conduct a test before the suspect’s BAC has dropped substantially. Prosecutors argue this should make probable cause sufficient to conduct the test.


With blood evidence, prosecutors win 90% of drunk driving cases. Texas, which does not have a state no refusal law but does impose No Refusal weekends over high-risk holidays, has reported that as many as 50% of suspected drunk drivers refuse testing, and that number jumps to over 70% for repeat offenders.

Progress is being made in some states that would make it possible for a warrant for a blood sample to be issued by “on call” judges. Technology is aiding officers by allowing remote contact with on-call judges and the option of having an electronic warrant sent directly to a smart phone or computer.

All states in the U.S. have “implied consent” laws with penalties for refusing BAC tests that range from a driver’s license suspension to jail time, but these penalties often fail to deter many chronic offenders.

The potential impact of the Court’s ruling makes this case a Top 12 of 2012 for Sobering Up. We’ll keep readers updated on the Court’s ruling and the implications for impaired driving enforcement.

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.

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