Breathalyzer tests and blood tests are commonly used to determine if a person who is driving is intoxicated. The ability of law enforcement officers to obtain the blood tests has become a bit more complicated thanks to a recent United States Supreme Court ruling.
In a trio of cases, the Supreme Court tackled the issue of what constitutes a violation of a person’s right to privacy. In the ruling, the highest court in the land found that a blood test is intrusive and requires a search warrant, but that a breath test isn’t intrusive and doesn’t require a search warrant.
The differentiation is important because of the different ways that refusing to submit to these tests can affect a driver. All states, including Wisconsin, have implied consent laws. These laws mean that when you opt to get a driver’s license, you agree to submit to chemical testing for alcohol usage if stopped by a law enforcement officer on suspicions of drunk driving. This Supreme Court ruling essentially means that drivers who are asked to submit to a blood test can refuse unless there is a search warrant signed by a judge.
This ruling by the Supreme Court is an important reminder of a person’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. One Supreme Court Justice noted that allowing law enforcement officers to skirt around the warrant requirement could be a step down a road that leads to the Fourth Amendment becoming a suggestion instead of a law.
If you are facing criminal charges for drunk driving, learning how this ruling might affect your case is imperative. Your defense strategy might need to be altered.
Source: CNN, “Supreme Court OKs warrant-less breathalyzer tests in drunk driving arrests,” Tal Kopan and Ariane de Vogue, June 23, 2016