The Supreme Court for the great state of Kansas recently overturned a DWI law in that state as facially violative of the U.S. Constitution. This is another in a trend of cases that are overturning states’ attempts to impose their will over the people’s rights to reasonable conduct by the police and state when they are involved in an investigation of a crime.
The DWI law at issue in this case was like those found in many other states. It was an implied consent law that assumed consent from drivers choosing to drive on the roads to take a blood or breath test if under investigation of DWI. But unlike laws in other states, this law made it a crime to refuse to give a blood sample to the police in an investigation. The law did not require police to obtain a warrant if there was refusal, and automatically made the suspect guilty of a crime for exercising a constitutional right.
What Happened in This Case
This case involved a man who was discovered to be driving backwards by a police officer, and later pulled over. During the traffic stop, the police officer asked the man to take field sobriety tests, and he did. According to the opinion, the man failed his field sobriety tests but refused to take a breathalyzer or blood test. The man was arrested on suspicion of DWI and convicted of the crime of refusing to give a blood sample.
What happened here raises the question of the necessity of the law in the first place. As this case shows, the police had a large amount of evidence already showing the man’s state before, after, and during the arrest. If he refuses to give a blood sample, that should be his right under the U.S. Constitution. It could be argued that the police could have got a conviction with the evidence they already amassed in the case. If not, the police could easily get a warrant from a judge to get a blood draw without consent.
Constitutional Rights at Stake
The court in this case based its opinion on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One of the rights granted in that provision is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures unless the police have a warrant. The courts have consistently held that taking blood from a person and testing it for its alcohol content is both a seizure and search. Therefore, a person has a right to demand a warrant before the police can actually take a blood test. It follows, then, that a state cannot pass and enforce a law that criminalizes the exercising of that right.
Like Kansas, Texas has an implied consent law on its books. Unlike Kansas, refusing to give a blood sample is not a crime in Texas. Refusal does bring with it, however, a license suspension and civil fine, both of which are civil remedies tied to the privilege of driving a car in the state. These kinds of laws have consistently been held as constitutional.
Protecting Your Constitutional Rights
Inevitably, your DWI case will come down to interpreting and protecting your rights under the law. No one is more qualified to do that than the professionals at the Wilder DWI Defense Firm. Contact us so we can go over your case with you and help you understand what steps you need to take in your case.