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Warrants now required in most cases for DUI blood tests

Every now and then a criminal law case goes to trial that can set precedence and even cause controversy throughout the larger judicial system. It is in these instances that the U.S. Supreme Court may be called upon to rule on how the law will be interpreted from that point on. This is exactly what happened recently when the Supreme Court decided on how law enforcement should administer blood alcohol tests to suspected drunk drivers throughout the country.

The original case involved a man that was suspected by law enforcement of driving under the influence of alcohol. After refusing to take a breath test and failing a field sobriety test, the man was arrested. The man was then brought to the hospital, where he was forced to submit to a blood alcohol test against his will. The results of that blood test were ultimately thrown out by that state’s Supreme Court because the test was administered without a warrant.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that, indeed, law enforcement should make a reasonable effort to obtain a warrant before having drunk driving suspects submit to blood tests. According to the Supreme Court justices’ decision, officers must do their best to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of suspects by first obtaining a warrant for blood whenever possible. And given that law enforcement have the opportunity to get warrants in a number of ways, one justice argued that it is not an unreasonable requirement.

Many states already require law enforcement to apply for search warrants before they can administer blood tests in most cases. By ruling on the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken an important step in ensuring the rights of individuals in this type of situation are protected under the law.

Source: Washington Post, “Supreme Court limits warrantless blood tests for drunken driving suspects,” Robert Barnes, April 17, 2013

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