Alternative Warrant Systems


This is the fifth of six videos produced by the National Center for State Courts and ABA Judicial Outreach Liaisons, supported by NHTSA, about issues in traffic adjudication. In this video, judges discuss various methods of securing warrants and the Fourth Amendment jurisprudence surrounding warrants in impaired driving cases.

Related Resources

Mitchell v. Wisconsin, oral argument before U.S. Supreme Court on April 23, 2019. The question before the court is whether a statute that authorizes a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provide an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement?  Pending a decision, the transcript of the oral argument can be found here while audio can be found here.

Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013).
In this case, the Supreme Court rejected the theory stemming from Schmerber v. California that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream was a per se "exigent circumstance" that permitted law enforcement to "search" someone in custody and take a blood sample without a warrant. Instead, the Court affirmed that exigency in impaired driving cases must be determined on a case-by-case basis. For an extended analysis of the case and a list of state court cases impacted by the Court's ruling in McNeely, see our page on the decision.

Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016).
In this case, the Court held that warrantless breath tests are permitted under the search incident to arrest doctrine but not warrantless blood tests (the latter having been established by McNeely), finding that blood tests are significantly more intrusive, implicate significantly more privacy concerns, and that their objective can be reached by other less intrusive means (namely breath tests).

Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160 (1949).
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that while officers must not always be proven factually correct by the results of a warrantless search, they must still possess a reasonable ground of suspicion to conduct the search, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. The Court emphasized that probable cause is the standard for arrests, not certainty of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973).
In this case, the Court held that "in the case of a lawful custodial arrest a full search of the person is not only an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but is also a reasonable search under that Amendment."

Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009).
In this case, the Supreme Court held that police may search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search (in an effort to protect law enforcement) or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest (in order to preserve evidence relating to the arrestee's crime).

Maryland v. King, 569 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1958 (2013).
In this case, the Court held that "when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee's DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment."

Riley v. California, 573 U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014).
In this case, the Supreme Court held that the warrantless search of a cell phone and seizure of its digital contents during an arrest is unconstitutional.

For other Fourth Amendment cases, see our Constitutional Considerations page.