The US Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday (January 9, 2013) in a case that will decide whether a police officer may obtain a nonconsensual blood sample from a suspected drunk driver without a search warrant. In Missouri v. McNeely, the State of Missouri appealed a decision of the Missouri Supreme Court that found the warrantless blood draw violated McNeely’s Fourth Amendment rights. In 2010, McNeely was stopped for speeding and was suspected of drunk driving. He failed field sobriety tests and refused a breath or blood test. The police officer then took McNeely to a nearby hospital and ordered a hospital technician to obtain a blood sample without a warrant.

The State of Missouri asked the Supreme Court to create an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement arguing that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood stream creates an exigent circumstance. The Justice Department joined Missouri in arguing this case. A decision is expected this spring.

This case should not have much impact on DUI cases in Colorado. The express consent law allows a driver in a DUI case to refuse a blood or breath test. However, a driver who refuses the chemical test may have his driver’s license revoked for 1 year for the first refusal; 2 years for a second refusal and 3 years for a third refusal. At the DUI trial, the driver’s refusal to take the chemical test may be admitted into evidence against the driver.