Drivers accused of driving under the influence of alcohol face an uphill battle when it comes to defending against these charges. This can be even more of a challenge with a new practice gaining popularity in Virginia and other southern states. Recent investigations have shown police officers drawing blood from drivers suspected of a DUI without their consent.
Implied consent is a big part of many states’ driving laws, and many drivers are not even aware of it. Under implied consent laws in Virginia, if an officer has probable cause to suspect that a driver has been drinking, that driver automatically consents to a test to determine their blood alcohol level. However, this does not mean that the driver has to take a test.
Forced blood draws are not currently legal in Virginia. Nonetheless, in a few other states nearby, if a driver refuses a breath or blood test, officers will get a warrant to draw the driver’s blood. If the driver puts up a fight, there are ways to get him to cooperate. A video recently surfaced showing one suspected drunk driver strapped to a chair with a mask over his head, while a nurse draws his blood and leaves. Some say that this violates drivers’ 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, but others are amazed at how effective it is at lowering the number of DUI arrests. There is still much debate surrounding these blood draws, but it may give us an idea of things to come.
While it is said that defending against a DUI may be easier if there are no breathalyzer or blood test results, there are consequences that come along with that decision. If the driver refuses to submit to either a breath or blood test, he could face an automatic license suspension and other penalties. In Virginia, if the driver refuses, he will also be charged with refusal. This means that, if the driver is convicted, and it is his first offense DUI, he will not get any driving privileges at all. Drivers facing drunk driving charges need to know their rights and be able to defend themselves from these serious consequences.
Source: WNEM, “INVESTIGATION: Police in South take blood of suspected drunk drivers without consent,” Rachel DePompa, Feb. 23, 2014