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Supreme Court allows warrantless blood tests in DWI arrests

Individuals in New City arrested on suspicion of drunk driving may be asked to submit to a breath test or blood test. You may wonder whether making such tests mandatory is legal, and indeed this issue was recently presented to the United States Supreme Court

Last month the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that while police do need a warrant in order to perform a blood test on individuals they believe are driving while intoxicated, a warrant is not necessary to perform a breath test on an individual they believe is drunk driving.

The ruling came in a consolidation of three cases. In the first case, a man who was accused by police of drunk driving refused to submit to a breath test after being arrested. In the second case, a man who drove his automobile into a ditch was arrested, but refused a blood test. The third case was returned to the lower court.

The court deemed that testing a person's blood was significantly intrusive, and the reasonableness of performing a blood test must be determined in light of whether a less intrusive means of testing, such as a breath test, is available. Moreover, unlike testing a person's breath, a blood test provides police with a sample from the driver's body that could be preserved and may even make it possible for additional information besides the driver's blood alcohol content level to be extracted.

Two justices issued a partial dissent, claiming that there should be a warrant requirement for both mandatory blood and breath tests. They argued that this decision weakened the Fourth Amendment's limitations on warrantless searches.

Warrants are an important part of preserving the Fourth Amendment requirement against unreasonable search and seizures. An expansion of the exceptions to which a warrantless search or seizure is permissible may ultimately have a broad affect on what police may do when they arrest someone on suspicion of drunk driving. If you have been accused of drunk driving, a DWI attorney can help you understand your rights and your legal options.

Source: The New York Times, "Warrants Required to Test Blood, but not Breath, Supreme Court Rules," Adam Liptak, June 23, 2016

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