Supreme Court: DUI Blood Draws Are Unconstitutional Without A Warrant

The Supreme Court recently decided drawing blood from DUI suspects requires consent or a warrant. If a suspect refuses to consent to the blood draw, the state cannot prosecute them for the refusal. However, the implied consent requirement does not extend to breath tests. Learn more about what this could mean for your case.

Fourth Amendment Protections for DUI Suspects

The Fourth Amendment protects us from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” while granting people a reasonable expectation of privacy. In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court opined that warrantless blood tests to determine blood alcohol content violate the Fourth Amendment. In the same decision, they upheld the constitutionality of warrantless breath tests taken for the same purpose. The difference is in the degree of intrusion.

The Court found that BAC breath tests involved very little physical intrusion, which was outweighed by the compelling state need for blood-alcohol testing. In contrast, blood draws are much more physically intrusive and are not necessary, since breath tests are widely available. Additionally, breath tests only tell the amount of alcohol in the blood, while blood DNA samples are much more revealing.

Consent Required For Blood Draws

Two months after the Supreme Court handed down this decision, a police officer in Utah made headlines when he was recorded arresting a nurse for not allowing him to take blood from an unconscious car accident victim. The viral video of the incident shows nurse Alex Wubbels explaining to the officer that she could not allow her patient’s blood to be taken while he was unable to consent, unless there was a warrant in place. Officer Jeff Payne acknowledges the lack of a warrant before handcuffing Ms. Wubbels and placing her in a police car for “impeding an investigation.”

Although Ms. Wubbels was eventually released without being charged with a crime, the video of her arrest was shared hundreds of thousands of times in the week following its release. The Salt Lake City Police Department has since apologized for the incident and placed Officer Payne on paid leave while it investigates the situation.

South Carolina Implied Consent Law

South Carolina currently has a state law that requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although the breath test is typically the go-to test, an officer may order a blood test if you are incapable of taking the breath test.

It is within your rights to refuse a breath or blood test, but there are consequences for doing so. The penalty for refusing the test is a mandatory six-month suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension will be for nine months if it is your second offense and one year for subsequent offenses. Although the penalty for refusing the test is strict, it is not as severe as the penalties for a DUI conviction.

Get Help From A Charleston, SC DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, there are defenses and options available to you. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at McCoy & Stokes, LLC for assistance with your case.