Under Massachusetts law, when you get behind the wheel and drive on the roads, you are giving your implied consent to have your blood-alcohol content tested if police have probable cause to believe you are drunk.
This means that if police pull you over and suspect you are drunk, you cannot just refuse to take a BAC test. While you will generally have your choice of a blood or breath test, a refusal to take some type of BAC test can result in a 180-day license suspension for a first offense, with longer suspensions for repeat offenders. Of course, some people will choose to refuse to take the test anyway, accepting the license suspension.
There is a way to get around this refusal. In some states, law enforcement has to get a judge to issue a warrant ordering the potential drunk driver to submit to a blood test despite refusing to do so. In other states, however, police have even more leeway in investigating drunk driving cases by requiring blood tests. In January of 2013, the United States Supreme Court began reviewing a case related to how far states could go in DUI investigations. Our Boston drunk driving accident attorneys believe that the decision the Supreme Court makes is going to have a major impact on the laws related to DUI evidence collection throughout the U.S.
Supreme Court Considering the Rights of Suspected Drunk Drivers
The Supreme Court Case has arisen out of Missouri’s rules about taking blood from drunk drivers. Under Missouri laws, which are backed by the Obama administration, drunk drivers may be forced to submit to a blood test even without a warrant being obtained from a judge. In other words, even if someone refused a test, the individual could be forced to submit to one by law enforcement without a court order from a judge.
The rationale behind forced blood tests is that evidence is being lost or destroyed with each minute that passes. This is because the driver’s blood alcohol level is continually going down. If police have to wait to find a judge and get a warrant, a person’s blood alcohol may fall below the limit in this interim waiting period even if the individual was actually drunk while driving.
Of course, there are also plenty of arguments about why the Missouri police shouldn’t just be allowed to take blood. The biggest argument is that requiring that a person submit to a blood test in the absence of a warrant or a court order is a violation of a person’s fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. A blood test, after all, is a very intimate and personal type of search. Based on this logic and on other arguments about the rights of defendants, around half of the states in the U.S. have prohibitions against warrantless blood tests in most DUI cases.
The Supreme Court began on Wednesday to consider arguments from both sides on whether the Missouri law is constitutional. As Boston.com reports, however, the Supreme Court appeared reluctant on Wednesday to OK blood tests with no warrants.
If the Supreme Court decides that such searchers are not permitted without warrants, this will provide more protection for defendants and could make things a little bit harder for plaintiffs.
Not having proof that a driver was actually intoxicated can make a criminal case harder. A person injured in a drunk driving accident can also have a more difficult time proving his case if he files a civil lawsuit since there will be an absence of evidence showing that the defendant was over the legal limit. However, even in cases when no warrantless blood test is performed, enough evidence may be collected against the drunk driver so that he is held accountable criminally and made to pay monetary damages to victims of an auto accident he causes.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident in the Greater Boston area, contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free consultation. Call 1-877-617-5333.