This will prove to be a historical year for the U.S. Supreme Court and its DWI jurisprudence. There are three cases now before the case that will answer the question of whether a state can make it a crime to refuse a warrantless blood or breathalyzer test. Currently, Minnesota and North Dakota are among the states where it is illegal to refuse such tests.
In both cases the question is before the High Court of what lengths a state can go to limit constitutionally granted rights. Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, each of has the right to be treated reasonably by the police during a criminal investigation, and we have a right of privacy from searches and seizures unless the police have a warrant.
The state laws in question put those rights in jeopardy. Under those laws, if a person is suspected of DWI the police have a right to demand a blood or breath test. If the suspect refuses, then the police can charge them with the additional crime of refusing a blood or breath test in connection with a DWI investigation. Many constitutional scholars view this a contrary to constitutional norms, and generally unconstitutional.
As the reasoning goes, if the state is going to punish someone for exercising a right granted in the constitution, what good is that right? And if the state can criminalize exercising one right, would they be free to criminalize other rights as well? Free speech, for example, would a state be able to make it a crime to exercise free speech on public issues? Just asking the question reveals the absurdity of it.
Texas DWI Laws Regarding Blood and Breath Tests
Texas, like most other states have laws requiring a person to take a blood or breath alcohol test. But unlike the cases the Supreme Court is slated to here, refusing in to take such a test in Texas is a violation of civil, not criminal laws. If a DWI suspect refused to take a blood or breath test in connection with a DWI investigation in Texas, that person automatically gives up his or her privilege to drive, but this is not seen as a criminal penalty in the eyes of the courts.
In these situations, the police then have one of two options. Go to a magistrate and seek a warrant to force the DWI suspect to give a blood or breath sample, or accept the refusal and book the suspect on the other evidence gathered. In fact, in recent cases Texas courts have overturned dozens of convictions where a defendant was forced to take a blood sample under Texas law. The Supreme Court recently decided that it unconstitutional to take a blood sample without a warrant.
Understanding and Defending Your Rights
What does all this mean for a Texas DWI defendant? Several things. Most importantly is the fact that each of us has rights granted to us under the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, and those rights must be protected from violations. If violated, a court should overturn the actions taken to violate those rights. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm, our primary focus is to ensure that our DWI clients get the very best representation possible. If you or someone you love is charged with DWI in the Dallas, Texas area, contact us. We will go over your case with you and provide you with a free case evaluation.