Supreme Court rules warrant needed for DUI blood draw

dui warrant

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that police are allowed to conduct a warrantless breath test as a result of a DUI arrest but not a warrantless blood test. The Court had before it three cases in which the defendant either refused or did take a breath or blood test – a criminal prosecution for refusing a warrantless blood test; a criminal prosecution for refusing a warrantless breath test; and a “voluntary” blood test given when told by police that it was required. In making its decision, the Court found that taking a blood sample or undergoing a breath test is a search under the Fourth Amendment. The Court found that breath tests did not implicate any significant privacy concern as the test was not intrusive to any particular degree and was administered incidental to a person’s arrest. Searches incident to arrest are generally acceptable.

However, blood tests are significantly more intrusive because it requires piercing someone’s skin and the results could reveal more than a blood alcohol level. Therefore, whether or not a warrantless blood test is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment which protects us against unreasonable searches depends on the availability of a breath test.  The Court found that the prosecutor in each case before it did not present a valid argument as to why a blood draw given without a warrant was reasonable.

The Court also ruled that drivers may not be punished criminally for refusing to submit to a blood test based on implied consent laws. Implied consent in the DUI context means that when someone accepts the “privilege” to drive in the State of Florida, they give their consent to any sobriety test required by law.  (Look at the bottom of your Florida Driver License). The court explained that the State’s power must be limited in situations where it insists on an intrusive blood test and then criminally prosecutes someone who refuses.

If you or someone you know has questions about a DUI, contact Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer Gary Cole.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues problems.


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