Supreme Court requires warrants to take blood in DWI cases
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that police must usually get a warrant from a judge before drawing blood from a person suspected of driving while intoxicated. In New Jersey, authorities often use an Alcotest device to check suspects’ breath for alcohol, but blood tests are also used. Because it is a U.S. Supreme Court decision, under the Federal Constitution, the decision would affect New Jersey as well as the rest of the nation.
The case at issue involved a Missouri man who was stopped by a state police officer for allegedly swerving and speeding. The man refused to take a breath test and failed field sobriety tests. The officer then took the suspect to a hospital where his blood was drawn and tested. In a 9-1 decision authored by Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts decision suppressing the blood test results because it was a violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The decision indicates that police must get a warrant from a judge to draw blood, unless a delay could threaten a life or destroy potential evidence.
As this case shows, there are many requirements authorities must meet before charging an individual with an offense like driving while intoxicated. Just because a police officer has met with a breath test refusal, does not mean he can require the driver to submit to a blood test, unless the officer can show probable cause to have a judge issue a warrant for such a test.
Of course, refusal of a breath test can have serious consequences of its own, such as automatic suspension of a driver’s license. Further, a conviction for drunk driving does not always require a measurement of blood alcohol content. Thus, it is important that anyone facing such charges explores all possible defenses, especially considering a conviction might result in jail time and heavy fines.
Source: NJ Herald, “Court rejects routine no-warrant DUI blood tests,” April 17, 2013