The fate of some tests for blood alcohol concentration has been in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. Three cases that were presented to the Supreme Court called the implied consent laws into question based on the United Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on searches and seizures that are considered unreasonable. In all three cases, the appeals that were filed with the state supreme courts led to the state courts upholding the laws. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t see things the same way.
The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court states that because breath tests to determine BAC aren’t considered intrusive, police officers don’t need search warrants to perform those. It does note that police officers must get a search warrant before they can require a person to take a blood test to determine BAC. This is because the court viewed the blood test as an intrusive test.
Interestingly, the ruling doesn’t mean that the implied consent laws have changed. Instead, states can still revoke a driver’s license because of an unwillingness to submit to the test. Taking the breath test is something that you do have the right to refuse to do, but you should fully understand what you are facing by doing so.
The need for a search warrant is a major development that anyone who is being accused of drunk driving should know about. This change could prove to be useful in defenses against drunk driving charges if the charge is based on a blood test to determine BAC if the law enforcement officers didn’t obtain a warrant.
Source: The New York Times, “High Court Limits Drunk Driving Test Laws,” June 23, 2016