Supreme Court: Police Need Warrants Before Blood Alcohol Tests
WASHINGTON, D.C - The Supreme Court has placed new limits on state laws that make it a crime for motorists suspected of drunken driving to refuse alcohol tests.
Justices ruled Thursday that police need a search warrant before requiring drivers to take blood alcohol tests. But the court declined to require a warrant for breath tests, which it considers less intrusive.
The ruling came in three cases where drivers challenged so-called implied consent laws in Minnesota and North Dakota as violating the Constitution's ban on unreasonable search and seizure. State supreme courts in each state had upheld the laws.
Up until now in Oklahoma, you could refuse a blood test and that was that, although the fact that you refused could be used against you in court.
Now, the officer has a second chance to get your blood, but only with a warrant, and only within a certain timeframe.
"You have to do a blood draw within two hours of arrest, not the time of the accident or the stop, from the arrest. So the officer could have to obtain a search warrant within two hours," said attorney Travis Horton with Gorospe and Smith.
Horton suspects, during DUI checkpoints that are planned ahead of time, officers will have a judge on call to get those warrants quickly.
Other states more commonly use blood tests in alcohol-related arrests but it's more common in Oklahoma to use a breathalyzer unless drugs are involved.
Horton said, "If they have a reason to suspect not just alcohol, but, maybe, drug ingested, that's when they'll seek a blood test, not a breath test."
If the suspected drunk driver is in a crash that involves injuries or a death, officers still don't need a warrant to get a blood test from that person; that part of the law hasn't changed.
Drivers in all 50 states can have their licenses revoked for refusing drunken driving tests. The court's ruling affects laws in eleven states that impose additional criminal penalties for such refusals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.