Supreme Court: Warrant needed for suspected drunken drivers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The U.S. Supreme Court may have just made it tougher for law enforcement officers to do warrant-less blood draws on suspected drunken drivers.

The court issued its opinion Wednesday on the Missouri case against Tyler McNeely.
Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says the most important evidence of whether someone is driving while intoxicated is their blood alcohol content.

While the Supreme Court may have sided with a suspected drunken driver Wednesday, Zahnd says police on a case-by-case basis can still draw blood without a warrant.

McNeely was pulled over near Cape Girardeau, Mo., for speeding and swerving. He failed a field sobriety test, according to police, and his blood was drawn without his consent.

While the test showed McNeely's blood alcohol was nearly twice the legal limit, the U.S. Supreme court says police should have obtained a warrant first.

"They didn't give absolutely clear instructions on when that would be permissible and when it wouldn't," said Zahnd.

Zahnd says because the supreme court did not give clear instructions in the case, obtaining a warrant is still up to police on a case-by-case basis.

"They certainly didn't close the door at all. In fact they said, in many cases, they said because that evidence is being destroyed minute by minute, it will be appropriate for police to take a blood sample without first obtaining a warrant,"  he says.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victims Advocate, Avis Lowe says MADD also hoped for a more definite answer.

"This isn't good," said Lowe.

She also says while the top court may have sided with McNeely, she doesn't feel this is a win.

"He might think he won but if he goes back out there and does it again and kills somebody hes going to wish he went ahead and paid his fines and had to hear a mother or aunt and uncle tell how they lost a loved one,"  Lowe said.

And if its up to Zahnd and Missouri Representative Don Phillips it won't be a win.

Phillips is sponsoring a bill that makes it clear refusing a blood or breath test is tampering with evidence, which is already a crime in the state of Missouri.

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