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SCOTUS To Review Drunk Driving Breath Tests

| May 16, 2016 | Drunk Driving (DUI)

Drunk driving laws and related penalties vary from state to state. This year, the Supreme Court of the United States will review Minnesota’s implied consent DUI/DWI laws to determine if it is legal to charge a person with a crime if he or she refuses to submit to a warrantless breath, blood or urine test.

What is SCOTUS reviewing?

There are two important questions being reviewed regarding implied consent laws:

1) Is it legal to administer a breath test or blood test without a warrant when a driver is suspected of being intoxicated?

2) If there is no warrant, can criminal charges be levied for refusing to submit to these tests?

All states impose a license revocation penalty for refusing to take a sobriety test. However, only twelve states make it an actual crime to refuse a test. For example, North Dakota law currently removes driving privileges for refusing to submit to a breath, blood or urine test. Furthermore, test refusal incurs criminal prosecution that can result in penalties commensurate with a drunk-driving conviction. Similarly, in Minnesota, it is a crime for a suspected drunk driver to refuse a warrantless breath test. Even if an individual is acquitted of the original DWI charge, that person can still be convicted of refusing to take a test, and subsequently, face serious penalties.

How do Virginia’s DWI laws treat breath tests?

Currently, Virginia has an “implied consent” law that requires those arrested for DUI to submit to a breath or blood test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). In some cases, the breath test may be offered before the arrest to help determine probable cause. This is called a preliminary test. It’s important to understand that a driver does not have to consent to the preliminary breath test. However, even if a driver refuses the preliminary test, the police may still have other reasons to establish probable cause, make the arrest and subsequently, require the breath or blood test.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling may not have a direct effect on Virginia’s implied consent law, it could open the floodgates for new legislation as other states modify their laws.

Where to turn for help after a drunk driving charge

If you or someone you love has been charged with driving under the influence, you probably have a lot of questions. One of the most important things to do right away is to consult with an experienced attorney who can help navigate the laws and advocate vigorously for your rights.

To learn more about how we can help defend your rights, reach out to us and speak with our lawyers about your DUI case during a confidential consultation.