The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in a huge privacy dispute over drunk driving arrests.The case turns on whether police can snag blood samples from unwilling suspected drunk drivers without a search warrant.
This case, involving a drunk driving suspect in Missouri, is difficult because it pits the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections against the public’s distaste for what SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston called the “social menace of drunk driving.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Wednesday that breathalyzer tests have a “much different intrusion level” from blood tests, while Chief Justice John Roberts suggested there’s likely a visceral aversion to forced blood tests.
“One of the things that I think affects the view in this case is it’s a pretty scary image of somebody restrained, and, you know, a representative of the state approaching them with a needle,” Roberts said.
But John Koester, who was arguing the case for the state of Missouri, said it’s tough to get potentially drunk drivers to agree to a drug test since they have to take a “very deep breath” for it to work.
“[O]ne police officer told me it’s sort of like you can put a balloon in front of somebody’s mouth,” Koester said, “but you can’t make him blow it up.”
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