The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld American’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The court declared that a state’s implied consent law, which allows the police to require drivers to take a breathalyzer test if they suspect drunk driving, does not extend to blood tests where no warrant exists. The police must have a warrant to require a blood alcohol test for use in a criminal DUI matter.

If you were pulled over for drunk driving and were required to take a blood alcohol test without a warrant, contact the Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys of Fienman Defense at (610) 255-7045 immediately.

Birchfield v. N. Dakota

The Supreme Court case of Birchfield v. N. Dakota was a consolidation of three cases—two from North Dakota and one from Minnesota. In these cases, individuals suspected of drunk driving were asked to take some type of a test to determine their BAC. The justices considered the constitutionality of implied consent laws, which require individuals to comply with police officers’ requests to take breath or blood tests.

The court decided 6-2 that warrantless breath tests are allowed. The justices in favor of allowing these tests stated the intrusion from a breath test was too minimal for it to be an unreasonable search under the Constitution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented stating a breath test should require a warrant.

When deciding on the constitutionality of warrantless blood tests, the court decided 7-1 that they were a violation of the Fourth Amendment and not allowed. Compared to a breathalyzer, blood tests are significantly more intrusive and amount to an unreasonable search.

The Effect of the Decision

Pennsylvania, like many other states, does have an implied consent law. Prior to the decision in Birchfield v. N. Dakota, police may have required allegedly drunk drivers to take a number of chemical tests to determine their BAC at the time of the incident. Now, however, the police without a warrant will only be allowed to require drivers to take a breath test for use against them in criminal DUI charges.

If you are arrested for drunk driving and the police want you to take a blood test without a warrant, you may refuse without additional criminal penalties. However, it is important to note that Pennsylvania classifies the refusal of a DUI blood test as a civil offense that results in a one year license suspension if you are a Pennsylvania driver. The Supreme Court did not address the issue in a civil context, so it is currently an open question as to how far the Pennsylvania courts will extend the application of Birchfield.

Contact a Philadelphia DUI Defense Attorney for Help

When you are pulled over because the police suspect you are driving while impaired, you may not be sure of your rights. You don’t have to go through the ordeal of a DUI arrest alone. Contact the skilled criminal defense lawyers of Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529 for a free consultation.

As of the date of this post, the information contained herein is accurate, but is subject to change.

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