Many police officers spend a significant amount of their time patrolling for drunk drivers. These officers have been trained on what to look for, and have spotted several drivers that demonstrate tell-tale signs of impairment.
Once an officer decides to make a DUI stop, there are specific procedures that must be followed. These safeguards ensure that a motorist's constitutional rights are protected. If questions arise over the actions of the arresting officer, it could cause some of the evidence to be excluded. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could mean major changes for police departments across the country.
The case concerned a DUI stop in Missouri. Police stopped a motorist that was observed speeding and crossing the center line. The officer detected some signs of impairment by the driver, including bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. The motorist admitted to having a few drinks earlier, and had difficulty standing after getting out of the vehicle.
The officer then conducted field sobriety tests, and the driver performed poorly. After the driver refused to submit to a portable breath test at the scene, an arrest was made. The motorist stated that he would refuse additional breath tests, so the officer took the individual to a nearby hospital to obtain a blood sample. The driver again refused to consent to this test, and the officer had the blood drawn over these objections. The test showed the driver to be well above the legal limit.
The officer that made the arrest did not get a warrant before the blood test, because he was concerned that the delay would allow the motorist's level of intoxication to decrease, making it more difficult to show impairment. Despite obtaining warrants in several other DUI stops, the officer believed that the warrant was not necessary.
The motorist challenged the warrantless blood draw, contending it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unconstitutional searches and seizures. The Court agreed, and ruled that police cannot force a motorist arrested for DUI to submit to a warrantless blood test.
The ruling is having an impact on the way that some police departments in Colorado are handling DUI arrests. They are examining the procedures that they have in place, and some will require warrants before any blood draws will be performed. State law currently permits officers to take blood without a warrant when felony vehicular assault or vehicular homicide occurs, but this case may force changes to these statutes. If the motorist refuses to take a blood or breath test, he or she may still be arrested for DUI. The refusal to take the test can be introduced as evidence to show that the motorist believed that he or she would test above the legal limit for alcohol.
The state takes these cases seriously, and you need to know how a conviction can impact the rest of your life. If you have been arrested for DUI, it is important that you understand the potential penalties that you are facing. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to help prepare a strong defense against these charges. An attorney can review the actions of the police officers, and could request that certain evidence be excluded if police violated your rights.