For those who follow changes in DWI laws, a recent opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court will have a major impact on DWI laws across the country. The issue facing the Supreme Court was whether a state could make it a crime to refuse a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test if under suspicion of committing a DWI.
Many prognosticators predicted that this was an easy case for the court to decide. After all, recent Supreme Court and state court decisions have put limits on state governments from taking a blood alcohol test without first obtaining a warrant. These rulings have been based in the guarantees of unreasonable searches and seizures found in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
There were several states that posed their question to the U.S. Supreme Court. In those states, it was considered a criminal offense to refuse to take a blood or a breath test in connection with a DWI investigation. Of course, since the Supreme Court recently issued an opinion saying that a state can not forcibly take a blood test without a warrant, it seemed clear that a state could not instead criminalize the act of exercising a constitutional right.
Despite this thinking, the case went before the Supreme Court. The result was surprising on one hand, and somewhat expected on the other hand. When it comes to taking a blood test to find out how much alcohol is in a person’s system, the court ruled that it is illegal for the police to do so without a warrant, and therefore can not be considered a crime. But this ruling comes with a caveat – in some cases of urgency a police officer may demand a blood test, and if refused by the suspect, it could be a crime.
For breathalyzer tests the opinion was not as difficult to understand with different situations demanding different results. The Supreme Court simply stated that warrantless breathalyzer tests are permissible under the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. They came to this conclusion after balancing the state’s goal of determining a driver’s BAC with a driver’s right to unreasonable searches and seizures. In the end, the court states, forcing someone to breath into a small machine is not so intrusive as taking their blood away from them.
The Big Takeaway
The big takeaway here is severalfold. In the first place this opinion shows how often and significantly DWI law can change in an instant. This puts even more importance on who you choose to represent you in a DWI case. Another big takeaway is that your rights in a DWI case more often than not depend on an interpretation of the law as applied to how the police treated you before, during, and after your stop for DWI. And again you need the right legal team to defend those rights.
At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm not only do we stay up to the minute on every change in the law regarding DWIs, we are the ones who will defend those rights. If you are facing DWI charges,contact us. We will go over your case with you and help you understand what legal options are available to you right now.