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High court rules on breath and blood test refusals in DUI cases

Many DUI cases in the state of Virginia center on the blood alcohol concentration of the driver at the time of the accident or vehicle stop. If an officer suspects that a driver has been drunk driving, he will typically ask the driver to take a test to measure his blood alcohol level. Implied consent laws generally state that a driver automatically consents to a BAC test every time he exercises his driving privileges. Thus, breath test refusal in DUI cases can lead to serious consequences including license suspension and possible jail time.

Virginia, as well as 12 other states, allows officers to arrest drivers who refuse breath and blood tests, even when the police lack a warrant. These laws are based on the desire to collect evidence of drivers' blood alcohol levels before they go down. This past week, the Supreme Court addressed this very issue.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices agreed that police officers should be allowed to arrest drivers who refuse breath tests, as they are not as intrusive as blood tests. However, due to the invasive nature of a blood test, a majority of the justices found that a warrant is necessary to protect the drivers' constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.

This is not the first time in recent history that the Supreme Court has addressed DUI laws. In 2013, the justices ruled against DUI blood tests without a warrant. After this latest ruling, officers cannot arrest those who refuse blood tests without a warrant. These changes to the law may help protect the rights of drivers facing potential DUI charges in Virginia.

Source: USA Today, "Supreme Court divides over breath, blood tests for drunk drivers," Richard Wolf, June 23, 2016

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