Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Algebra and the Supreme Court

Thought you guys might be interested in this story about a case before the Supreme Court today. Here's an excerpt:
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether police must get a warrant before forcing a drunken driving suspect to have his blood drawn. 
. . . At trial, though, the judge threw out the blood test because it was obtained without a warrant. The Missouri state Supreme Court unanimously agreed, noting that there were no events that would have interfered with getting a warrant — there was no accident to investigate, no injury requiring medical attention, and a judge was on call to review a warrant application quickly. The state court said that under these circumstances, there was no justification for failing to get a warrant before forcing an unwilling suspect to have his blood drawn.
The state of Missouri appealed, contending that because alcohol dissipates in the bloodstream over time, that alone constitutes an emergency situation that justifies forcing a blood draw without a warrant.
. . . But Steven Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing McNeely, counters that alcohol dissipates over a matter of hours, and that here, where there was no emergency that could have interfered, a warrant could have been quickly obtained. (emphasis added by me)

This should sound a little familiar to you, as we worked through this problem first semester (look at page 9 of this lesson). Remember how long it takes alcohol to be completely eliminated from the body?

So, what do you think? Given the speed at which alcohol is eliminated from the body, do you think taking a blood test constitutes an "emergency" and therefore doesn't require a warrant?

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