US Supreme Court to Decide DUI Law on Mandatory Blood Tests

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 18, 2012

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The US Supreme Court decided earlier this month to review law that allows police officers to draw blood from a suspected drunk driver without a search warrant.

Many states in the past few years have implemented mandatory blood test measures in attempt to curb high numbers of drunk driving accidents. The Supreme Court decision will determine whether these involuntary tests are in violation of people’s Fourth Amendment rights. 

The review comes after a case in Missouri where a man was pulled over for erratic driving and refused to take a breath test when the officer asked him to. The officer then reportedly drove him to a lab to have the suspect’s blood drawn, without trying to obtain a warrant first. 

The man was found to be drunk and was arrested, but a Missouri judge ruled that the blood test was not admissible. Missouri prosecutors, however, were not satisfied with the judgment and are seeking further action in the US Supreme Court. 

States have different laws regarding when an officer can or cannot force a suspected drunk driver to submit to a blood test. A little over half of the fifty states have laws against enforcing mandatory blood tests, while others do not even require a search warrant, Missouri being one of them. 

Some Other States with DUI Blood Testing

Florida is known for having relatively harsh DUI laws. Florida’s “no refusal” checkpoints make it lawful for police to require a blood test from anyone who refuses a breath test. These checkpoints have judges onsite ready to sign orders. 

Washington allows state police to force suspects to undergo blood testing, and suspects consent is not required. Police with the appropriate training can take the blood themselves. No warrant is needed. 

Tennessee requires police to draw blood whether the driver consents to it or not, if the suspect has a prior drunk driving conviction or if they have a child under the age of 16 in the car with them.

Wyoming recently passed a DUI blood draw initiative, but Wyoming does require a warrant be issued for the blood to be drawn.

Other states have enacted similar laws. But if a pending Supreme Court decision finds the activity in violation of the Constitution, it will affect current and future laws of this kind across the country.

For more on state and federal drunk driving laws, see the FreeAdvice Criminal Law DUI section.

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