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U.S. Supreme Court currently weighing issue warrantless blood draws

Louisiana's implied consent law states that drivers must submit to breath, blood, or urine testing if they are lawfully arrested by an officer that has probable cause to believe the driver has been driving or boating while intoxicated. The law is designed to make it easier for law enforcement catch offenders with multiple DUI arrests or those who are involved in a crash and refuse to submit to testing.

Under the law, suspected drunk drivers are asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. If they refuse, police may request a warrant for blood to be drawn for a toxicology test. This is done at local hospitals at no cost. Interestingly, the issue of forced blood draws is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case they are considering, though, involves the question of warrantless draws.

The case currently before the court involves the question of officers should be allowed to force a drunk-driving suspect to without first obtaining a warrant. Failure to do so, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, is a violation of personal constitutional freedoms.

The case comes out of a Missouri suit involving a man who was forced to submit to a blood draw, which resulted in a reading of over twice the legal limit.

Officers are interested in quick blood draws, of course, because of the risk of losing incriminating evidence, but that principle can work the other way around too. Because alcohol is absorbed into the body slowly, it can happen that a suspected drunk driver is not over the legal limit while operating a vehicle, but they are at or over the limit when they subsequently submit to a blood test.

It is important to explore this possibility when building a defense case on DWI charges. If a reasonable doubt about a defendant's blood alcohol content can be raised, the case can be considerably weakened.

Source: kplctv.com, "No refusal law allows law enforcement to crack down on repeat DWI offenders," Holly Carter, November 28, 2012

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