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Supreme Court rules states may not criminalize blood test refusal, P.2

Previously, we began looking at a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling which held that states may not, under constitutional law, impose criminal penalties for a drunken driving suspect’s refusal to submit to a blood test. The case is significant not only because of the impact it will have upon the enforcement of drunken driving laws, but also because of the way it resolved previous case law.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled in Missouri v. McNeely (2013) that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires officers to obtain a search warrant before taking a blood sample from a suspected drunken driven, unless a recognized exception applies. The specific issue in that case was whether the natural dissipation of alcohol categorically qualifies as an exception to the warrant requirement under the “exigent circumstances” exception. The answer to that question was, no. 

In light of the McNeely decision, there were questions about state implied consent laws which impose criminal penalties for refusing to submit to blood testing. McNeely had a blood sample forced upon him after he refused to submit to it under the state’s implied consent law. If, in light of McNeely, states could not force a warrantless blood draw without violating the Fourth Amendment, could they impose criminal penalties for refusing to submit to blood testing under implied consent laws? As we have seen, the answer was resolved in the negative, the court ruling in both cases for robust Fourth Amendment protections.  

In our next post, we’ll say a bit more about the impact the ruling may have in criminal cases.

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