Forced blood test and Supreme Court Decision
Last month the United States Supreme Court ruled that in most situations the police should be required to get a search warrant before drawing blood from a drunken driver who refuses to provide a blood test sample. Exceptions will exist for each case.
What will this mean for state DUI laws?
The Supreme Court was ruling on a Missouri DUI case that was brought before them but other state laws, including those in Wisconsin, may also be affected because laws in these states currently allow for a blood test to be taken from drivers without a legal warrant.
The decision by Wisconsin to use a forced blood test came after a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a California case which allowed the practice. The process used by Wisconsin has “evolved” over the years based on that case.
As soon as the Supreme Court decision was known publicly a spokesman for the Attorney General in the state of Wisconsin noted that their office would began reviewing the decision and how it would affect the arrest process after a drunk driving incident.
The Attorney General, however, claimed that they did believe their state would have the right to make warrantless blood test, “if the totality of the circumstances shows that there are exigent circumstances and those circumstances can be explained in a way that shows the normal dissipation of alcohol is not the only factor.”
What will this mean for defense lawyers and judges?
Defense lawyers throughout the U.S. have followed this decision in light of their claim that forced blood draws could violate a person’s constitutional rights. Judges can also expect more late night calls from law enforcement officials or state prosecutors requesting warrants.
Proponents of a required warrant argue that the larger issue is primarily the constitutional right of the driver. Others argue that some officers may have little evidence to require a blood test and requiring a warrant will act as a “gate keeper function” to stop the overzealous officer who does not have sufficient reason to request the blood test.
Opponents of required warrants argue this new requirement will only create additional work for prosecutors and for law enforcement. They also claim that prosecuting a DUI case without a chemical or blood test can be very difficult.
Most police forces have been notified that they should suspend warrantless blood withdrawals until further notice as area prosecutors scramble to interpret the decision of the court.
Penalties for refusal of blood test likely to increase
Many suggest that the likely outcome for all states will be the increased penalties for a DUI chemical test refusal. Penalties are already in place to suspend a driver’s license through an administrative license suspension for test refusals, but the amount of time for the suspension is likely to increase in the next few years if police officers have a more difficult time getting a warrant for the blood test.
What does this mean for drivers? Regardless of whether or not you take a blood test and fail or if you refuse to take the test, you are going to lose your right to drive for an extended period of time.
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