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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Waiting For Missouri

Many are anxiously awaiting the ruling of Missouri v. McNeely- the well known US Supreme Court case that will decide whether police officers can obtain a blood sample from a person arrested for a DWI without getting a warrant.  I have blogged about this case, but the fundamental question is whether a person should be forced to have their blood drawn solely based on a police officer's discretion. Should a police officer be required to go to a judge and obtain a warrant before blood can be drawn? You can read a good summary of the arguments presented to the US Supreme Court here.

Those who are opposed to giving police officers this much discretion make strong arguments; In the Simple Justice Post "And You Think A Needle In Your Arm Is Bad," Scott Greenfield highlights a case where police officers directed hospital staff to insert a catheter in order to obtain a urine sample for a young man who was arrested for suspicion of using Marijuana.

Greenfield also argues that the outcome of Missouri v. McNeely will not prevent a drunk driver from making the decision to drive a vehicle:
Mind you, the justification for someone sticking a needle in an arm is only tenuously connected with saving a life, since it does nothing to stop a drunk driver, but merely advances the collection of evidence of guilt after a stop has been made. The sole benefit is conviction, which arguably will result in a sentence that will have a deterrent effect.  Whether that's so is a matter of religion.

In Places No One Should Ever Go, Greenfield addresses the discretion given to police officers in a different case:
As a society, we give an extraordinary amount of authority to a handful of people and expect them to demonstrate an iota of sound judgment before using force against us.  What we cannot allow, after the fact, is to ask over and over, what the hell were they thinking.  Does it really require much thought for this cop, or his enabling judge, to have them realize that the forcible insertion of a catheter to obtain better evidence is just plain sick?

And naturally, having failed to obtain the evidence of Lockard's drunkenness after execution of this disgusting and disgraceful conduct, they were constrained to charge him with obstruction of justice.  Maybe because he didn't smile as they shoved the catheter into a place where no one should ever go.

Most Supreme Court decisions have very little to do with the case itself. For many, Missouri v. McNeely has nothing to do with drunk driving. The decision in McNeely is only the starting point.
What many are concerned with is the aftermath.

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posted by Carilyn Ibsen at


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