Forced Blood Extractions in DUI Cases

Attorney Humphrey's article entitled: "Drunk Driving and Warrantless Blood Tests" was recently published in the September/October 2014 edition of the Rhode Island Bar Journal. The article analyzes the ability of the State to compel a motorist to provide a blood sample in a drunk driving case under both the State and Federal Constitutions. The U.S. Supreme Court's most recent decision regarding warrantless blood tests in DUI cases was rendered in April of 2013 in the case of Missouri v. McNeely. InMcNeely, the motorist was stopped by a Missouri police officer for a traffic violation and refused to submit to a blood test. Nonetheless, McNeely's blood was taken without his consent and without a warrant. The United States Supreme Court held that the warrantless blood test results must be suppressed because the warrantless extraction of McNeely's blood was in violation of the 4th Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

In McNeely, the U.S. Supreme Court held that when officers in drunk driving investigations "can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so." Therefore, "the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, as it did in the earlier case of Schmerber v. California, but it does not do so categorically. Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of circumstances."

The Supreme Court's holding in McNeely is consistent with Rhode Island law. In Rhode Island, if a motorist has been involved in a DUI accident involving serious bodily injury or death, the police may obtain a search warrant for blood samples even if the motorist refuses to submit to a blood extraction. The Supreme Court's recent decision in McNeely supports Rhode Island's law that an officer may only compel a motorist to submit to a chemical test in serious DUI cases after first obtaining a search warrant.

Rhode Island has a long history of valuing "freedom and liberty above all other interests in our society." Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Rhode Island will continue to stand as a stalwart barrier against the tide of governmental intrusion for the purpose of efficient law enforcement or if Rhode Island will trade less privacy for more safety and security.

Please see our article "Drunk Driving and Warrantless Blood Tests" for more information. If you or a family member has been charged with drunk driving, drunk driving serious injury or death or other DUI crimes, please allowAttorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Attorney Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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