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Supreme Court: Police must try to get a warrant for blood tests

If you get pulled over for suspected drunk driving, police will usually attempt to find out through various means if there is a good chance you are intoxicated. First, they might ask if you have been drinking, which you do not have to answer. Next, they might ask you to exit your car and submit to a field sobriety test or a breath test, which you can refuse to perform and ask for an attorney in most cases. Finally, if police do arrest you, they may take you to a hospital and attempt to collect a blood sample. Last week, however, the Supreme Court ruled that only in certain situations is that acceptable.

The Supreme Court case stemmed from a drunk driving arrest in a Midwestern state. When police pulled a driver over, they reported noticing clear signs of intoxication. The driver, however, refused to take a breath test and did not pass a field sobriety test. The man was arrested and taken to jail. On the way, however, police took him to a hospital where they instructed a phlebotomist to take a sample of his blood, even though the man did not consent. He was charged with drunk driving.

The driver fought the case, arguing that the police illegally obtained a sample of his blood without a warrant. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where justices ruled in favor of the driver. The justices ruled that in order to obtain a blood sample from a DUI suspect who does not consent, police must at least attempt to get a search warrant. In most cases, the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from an unwarranted blood draw, they said.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from a DUI charge is to know your rights. If an officer attempts to illegally draw your blood, you will know now to refuse and ask for an attorney. Even if an officer mishandles a situation that leads to evidence against you, attorneys know how to make sure that evidence is not allowed in court.

Source: The Washington Post, "Supreme Court limits warrantless blood tests for drunken driving suspects," Robert Barnes, April 17

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