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Police can't always require DUI blood tests without a warrant

In an order that comes from the U.S. Supreme Court, law enforcement in Colorado and throughout the country might want to take a look at their blood test process in drunk driving cases. Collecting blood evidence from DUI suspects isn't always acceptable, particularly when officials don't have warrants to do so.

Think about it. A blood test is a relatively invasive procedure compared to blowing into a Breathalyzer or being asked to count backwards. Someone puts a needle into a suspect's body and collects his blood. That process shouldn't be forced upon a driver without proven, probable cause and, in many cases, a warrant.

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a man who challenged his DUI conviction based on his argument that police unethically collected a blood test from him and used it as evidence. The drunk driving suspect exercised his right to refuse a breath test and pressed on in his defense by refusing a blood test as well. That refusal, however, was not followed, and authorities went ahead with the test without even getting a warrant before the process. That misstep worked in favor of the defendant in his Supreme Court case.

The justices agreed that the case at-hand should have involved a warrant in order for officials to collect the suspect's blood evidence. An accident hadn't taken place; no one's life was endangered at the time of his arrest. The idea that a suspect's blood alcohol content will change over time wasn't argument enough to sway the court to see the warrantless blood test as okay. A person's right to feel secure in his body is a right worth protecting.

Because the Supreme Court didn't lay out specific rules regarding warrants and blood tests, states' will need to do some reevaluation of their blood test collection processes and compare them to the details of this recent ruling and the case that inspired it.

Blood tests are generally more reliable than breath tests in DUI cases. Visit our Colorado criminal defense site to learn more about breath and blood tests, including one's rights related to the matter as well as how chemical tests can be challenged in court.

Source: CNN Justice, "Supreme Court rules against police in drunk driving case," Bill Mears, April 17, 2013

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