Court considering warrantless blood draws for DUI

Court considering warrantless blood draws for DUI

Each year, legislators across the country enact tougher penalties for DUI convictions. Wisconsin is no exception to this practice. Besides potential jail time and high fines, motorists convicted of DUI will see increased insurance costs as well as a potential revocation of their drivers' licenses.

When police make a DUI stop, there are certain procedures that they follow. If these procedures are not followed, this could mean that the evidence will be excluded. For many motorists, that can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal, so officers are very careful when making an arrest.

A recent case in the U.S. Supreme Court could have a major impact upon anyone that is suspected of driving under the influence. A Missouri motorist was stopped by police after he was observed speeding and swerving. When the officer approached the vehicle, he noticed signs of impairment.

The officer asked the driver to submit to field sobriety tests, which the motorist failed. The driver was subsequently arrested for DUI, and asked to submit to a breath test. Despite Missouri being an implied consent state, the motorist refused the breath test, and the officer continued with the next steps of the process.

The motorist was taken to a nearby hospital to have a blood sample taken so it could be checked to determine if the man was operating while intoxicated. The motorist refused to give consent to this test either. The police officer ordered that the man's blood be drawn over his objections. The test showed his blood-alcohol content to be much higher than the 0.08 limit in place.

The highway patrolman in this case had over 15 years of experience making DUI stops. The officer believed he did not need a warrant to obtain the blood, even though he had obtained one in several other instances. The state argued that it a warrant was not necessary, because time is of the essence. Valuable evidence could be lost if forced to wait for a warrant to be approved, because the body could process the alcohol and bring a motorist closer to the legal limit. The entire process, from when the man was stopped until blood was drawn, took less than a half hour.

Lower courts threw out the blood test, and the Supreme Court is being asked whether or not warrants will still be required for future blood draws. The Justices seemed concerned about the potential power that this could give law enforcement officers. If a warrant is deemed unnecessary, police could subject many more motorists to blood tests without their consent. Additionally, the Court asked questions about some of the other tests that officers could use to check blood-alcohol content levels.

If you are facing DUI charges, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You have rights, and it is important to review your case to ensure that police followed proper procedures. While this may be an extremely stressful time for you, do not simply plead guilty in the hopes that the case will go away. A conviction carries significant penalties that can have a life-long impact.