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Warrantless blood tests deemed unconstitutional

Most people have a casual familiarity with the experience of being pulled over by police and being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. If the experience isn't first hand, chances are they have seen representations of it on television. The accused may be asked to participate in a field sobriety test, which often involves some sort of balancing act. They might be asked to take a breathalyzer test that involves blowing into a contraption meant to measure blood alcohol content. They might also be asked to submit to a blood test.

Putting DUI charges to the test

Increasingly, more people that have been pulled over have come to realize their rights in refusing field sobriety tests, which are less than scientific. Those who have very good balance may be able to pass these tests while under the influence, and some might not be able to pass them even if they don't have a drop of alcohol in their system. The wording of the law in many states has been to make it a criminal act to refuse either breathalyzer or blood tests, but three men from North Dakota and Minnesota challenged this thinking, and set out to have their DUI convictions reversed because they believed that the tests they felt they were forced to submit to violated their 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. The North Dakotans' objections were to the blood test. The Minnesotan disputed the breathalyzer. While neither state level Supreme Court found fault with the tests, the U.S. Supreme Court had a different opinion and ruled that while the impact on personal privacy was not enough to declare breathalyzer tests unconstitutional, the same was not true for blood tests. As a result of the ruling, the North Dakotans were able to have their convictions reversed, while the Minnesotan did not.

More than 3 men in the Midwest

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on blood tests for those suspected of driving under the influence, the ruling should have an impact on similar cases throughout the country. The ruling was 7-1 against conducting the tests, unless the police had a warrant first. Those who disagreed (dissent) with the ruling are concerned that obtaining a warrant during a time sensitive incident may pose a problem, however many also argue that not all judges are working 9-5, and since warrants can be issued off of templates, getting a warrant even in the middle of the night for a DUI is far from impossible if probable cause truly is present.

Taking a stand

There are many laws on the books at both the state and federal level, and more are being proposed every day. Not everyone agrees about every law, and there is not universal acceptance that says that just because something is legal it is right. While some may believe that the men who challenged their DUI convictions were just watching out for themselves, there is a chance that their motivations went deeper. One of the purposes of the U.S. constitution is to overshadow any state or local law that infringes on the rights of citizens. One of the most basic freedoms that we as Americans have is the ability to question laws and policies believed to be unjust.

If you've been accused or convicted of a crime you believe to be unjust, or believe that the police did not provide you with your constitutional rights as they gathered evidence against you, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help you get charges reduced or possibly dismissed.

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Law Office of Sam Byrd
3828 Dayton Blvd
Chattanooga, TN 37415

Phone: 423-954-7949
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NCDD National College for DUI Defense: Samuel A Byrd