The law enforcement landscape regarding drunk driving is not fixed. Like any area of law, it can change. All it takes is a decision by a court or action by the Virginia legislature. Back in May of last year, we reported on how the U.S. Supreme Court would be looking at whether laws criminalizing the refusal to submit to breath and blood tests without a warrant are constitutional. This post offers an update for those who might not have heard the outcome.
All states have implied consent laws on the books. Virginia is one of a number of states that has opted for more aggressive prosecution of suspected drunk drivers, making it a crime to refuse a police officer' demand for a breath or blood test after an arrest.
Because of the high court's decision in June, however, it is now the law of the land that police cannot force a DUI suspect to submit to a blood test without first obtaining a warrant. The same is not true of breath tests, however. This has many legal experts in Virginia speculating on what effect the decision will have in our state.
As our previous post noted, current state law penalizes arrested drivers who refuse to submit to either a breath or blood tests, even if police have no warrant. The consequence for even first-time offenders calls for suspension of your license for a year. Under the Supreme Court ruling, police don't need a warrant for breath testing, but blood testing is too invasive to allow without a court's permission.
At the very least, some experts say the decision will drive Virginia authorities to rely more heavily on breath tests alone when assembling evidence for DUI cases. Others say lawmakers are going to have to revise state law somehow to bring it into line with the Supreme Court decision.
That may prove helpful for some defendants. It all depends on the circumstances of a given case. Each one is different. The way to know what your rights are and options may be is to consult an experienced attorney.