California, like many states, requires drivers to submit to a blood or breath test if they are asked to do so by police. But is this constitutional? That’s precisely what the Supreme Court was asked to rule on recently. Like many Supreme Court decisions, their ultimate decision isn’t black and white. Here’s what the ruling means to DUI suspects, courtesy of San Diego drunk driving defense attorney Peter M. Liss
It is worth noting that the most recent laws debated by the court weren’t the same as California’s existing DUI law as they instituted criminal penalties for those who refused to take a blood or breath test. California’s Implied Consent Law requires drivers to submit to a blood or breath test or face civil penalties like the automatic loss of driving privileges. The Supreme Court has explicitly stated that they are not against civil penalties for those who refuse to take a blood or breath test, so California’s law was not immediately challenged by the ruling either way.
On the other hand, most San Diego DUI lawyers believe you should be aware of this recent ruling as it could affect California’s future drunk driving statutes or because you may drive out of state in an area that allows criminal penalties for those who refuse to take chemical DUI tests.
Essentially, the court was asked to evaluate the constitutionality of legally requiring suspects to submit to all chemical DUI tests without a warrant, but in their decision, the court made a distinction between blood and breath tests. The justices explained that they believed that offering a breath test is not particularly intrusive, noting “the effort is no more demanding than blowing up a party balloon.” On the other hand, they agreed that a blood test is “significantly more intrusive.”
As a result, the court ruled that you can be forced to take a breathalyzer without a warrant, but not a blood test. Refusal to submit to either can result in a license suspension, but you cannot face criminal charges for refusing to submit to a blood test. That being said, you may still be forced to take a blood test without consenting if the police are able to obtain a warrant to draw your blood. If you are forced to submit to a blood test without offering your consent or police obtaining a warrant first, your San Diego DUI lawyer may be able to have the charges against you dropped because the main evidence against you was obtained illegally.
If you have any questions about how this decision may affect you or if you have been charged with a DUI, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to speak with experienced an San Diego drunk driving defense attorney.
Creative Commons Image by West Midlands Police