When can the police force you to take a blood test if they think you have been driving under the influence? Not as often as they want to. If you live in Florida, take out your driver’s license. On the very bottom in tiny letters, it says “operation of a motor vehicle constitutes consent to any sobriety test required by law.” A recent U.S. Supreme Court case has severely limited as to when a blood test can be required by law, and what the penalties can be for refusing one.
Lets review what the Florida Legislature wanted before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. The relevant statutes say three main things 1) “Any person who accepts the privilege… of operating a motor vehicle… is… deemed to have given his or her consent to submit to an approved chemical test… of his or her blood.” 2) If someone is unconscious in the hospital after a crash, police have reasonable suspicion that the unconscious person was driving under the influence and a breath test/urine test are “impracticable”, that unconscious person is “presumed” to consent to a blood test. 3) Police could forcibly draw blood if they have probable cause to believe that someone committed a DUI causing death or serious bodily injury. What happens when someone refused a blood test? Importantly, refusing to submit to blood testing constituted an additional criminal offense, when the person had a previous refusal. This act became a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail.
Not so fast! In Birchfield v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court recently reasoned that a warrant is required for a blood test for DUIs. Blood tests cannot occur as a matter of course “incident to an arrest” for a DUI. The Supreme Court reasoned that implied consent (#1 above), cannot extend to criminal penalties for those who drive on the road. In other words, while it may be okay to suspend someones license for refusing to submit to a blood test, actually charging them with a crime is not okay. The Court focused on the intrusive nature of sticking a needle into someones body versus a urine or breath test. Remember, the Court previously held in Missouri v. McNeely that the natural dissipation of blood alcohol does not excuse police from getting a warrant either. After this landmark case, blood tests are going to become more and more difficult for law enforcement to attain in DUI cases.
Note: This blog is for informational purposes ONLY and does NOT constitute legal advice.