Prosecutors: Warrant may not be needed for blood test

New drunken-driving law hasn’t been challenged in courts, Cole County official cautions

Missouri prosecutors say they believe a new state drunken-driving law gives police the authority to take blood samples from reluctant suspects without a warrant.

The guidance came during a presentation organized by the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services for law officers and prosecutors. Officials across the state received training Friday on handling drunken-driving cases.

Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who led the discussion during a session in Jefferson City, said the new drunken-driving law seems to permit the taking of blood without a warrant under certain circumstances. However, Richardson said he still advises law officers in his county to seek a warrant until prosecutors find a favorable case to present the issue for the courts to decide.

“There is a good number of people that believe that as of today ... upon the arrest of someone for driving while intoxicated or for drugs, you have the authority under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to take that person and have a blood sample drawn — even if they refuse,” said Richardson, who noted that some disagree with that interpretation.

The law, which was approved this year, seeks to steer first-time offenders toward alcohol-treatment programs instead of prison and to ensure that repeat offenders are punished severely.

When the law was being drafted, prosecutors pushed for the right for police to take blood samples without a warrant from suspected drunken drivers. But state senators removed a provision that would have allowed blood to be drawn without a warrant from drivers who refuse breath tests.

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