Supreme Court Ruling Changes BAC Testing Procedures

Last month (June 23, 2016), the Supreme Court placed new limits on state laws which criminalize suspected drunk drivers for refusing BAC testing. Police are now required to obtain a search warrant before performing blood tests, which the court has deemed more intrusive and painful compared to breath tests.

The ruling arose after several states imposed criminal penalties on drunk drivers, in addition to revoking licenses, who refuse to subject themselves to BAC testing. There were three cases in which drivers challenged so-called implied consent laws in Minnesota and North Dakota as violating the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, which resulted in state supreme courts upholding the laws.

Justice Samuel Alito stated that breath tests do not implicate “significant privacy concerns,” comparing the act of blowing into a breath test machine to using “a straw to drink beverages.” He also noted that the high court has previously declined to require a warrant for collecting DNA samples by rubbing a swab on the inside of an individual’s cheek or scraping underneath a person’s fingernails to search for evidence of a crime.

Besides Minnesota and North Dakota, the following are other states that criminalize a driver’s refusal to take BAC tests:

  • Rhode Island
  • Alaska
  • Nebraska
  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Vermont
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Louisiana

“We are reviewing the decision and what, if any, impact it may have on existing Rhode Island DUI law or practice,” said Amy Kemp, spokeswoman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, in an article by the Providence Journal.

For more information about this new ruling, contact The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. today.