November 02, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/
-- The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case coming out of Missouri that could very well have implications for police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and motorists all over the country: whether law enforcement agencies have the right to obtain blood samples from those suspected of drunk driving without either the person's consent or a valid warrant.
Vocal Arguments on Both Sides
Criminal defense attorneys and human rights watchdog groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argue that warrantless blood draws are the very height of government overreaching, violating the sanctity of a person's body without his or her consent. The ACLU points out that more than half of the states - 27 of them, in fact - have policies directly prohibiting the non-consensual taking of blood samples from a suspect without a signed warrant unless "special" or "exigent" circumstances exist.
Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors feel that the rapid rate of alcohol's dissipation in the body is - in and of itself - an exigent circumstance that should allow samples to be forcibly taken if no warrant is present and no consent is given. They view it as an important part of the police's commitment to public safety to gather as much evidence as possible against the roughly 1.4 million drivers charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in America each year.
Public safety advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is also in support of the practice. Some of the most persuasive evidence used to support the practice of warrantless blood draws comes from an unexpected source: the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA doesn't make an express statement supporting the taking of non-consensual blood samples, but the data they have compiled about drunk driving is persuasive nonetheless. Figures released by the NHTSA reveal that someone is killed in America every 28 minutes because of the actions of a drunk driver.
A Country-Wide Movement?
In spite of the fact that, as the ACLU points out, 27 states have expressly prohibited wholesale warrantless blood draws for DUI/DWI cases, there is still a healthy debate in many jurisdictions across America. Some have chosen to handle the topic of warrantless, involuntary breath or blood testing for the presence of alcohol with so-called "No Refusal" policies. For example, Bexar County, Texas, has had a "No Refusal" policy in place for more than a year now, and it doesn't allow a suspect to avoid giving a breath or blood sample when allegations of drunk driving arise.
The Waiting Game
Given the pace of past Supreme Court decisions, it is likely the matter of warrantless blood draws will not be settled until well into 2013. In the mean time, if you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, you may or may not have a right to refuse (depending on where you are at the time of an arrest) to give a breath or blood sample. You do, however, have the right to consult an attorney, and you should strongly consider doing so in order to better protect your legal rights and options.
Article provided by Law Offices of David P. Schwarz
Visit us at http://www.orangecountycriminaldefenselawfirm.com---
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