by Tony Sangiamo
If the police want to have your blood tested for alcohol because they suspect you are driving drunk…
If the police want to have your blood tested for alcohol because they suspect you are driving drunk, they need to tell you that you have the right to refuse the test. If they do not, and your blood tests positive, resulting in a DUI charge, then you may be able to have the charge dismissed.
Driving under the influence of alcohol obviously can have serious and irreversible consequences for others. It is natural to lack sympathy for someone who risks or causes injury and/or property damage by drinking while drunk. It also is true that many of us drink in a socially acceptable manner, perhaps during dinner at a restaurant, without becoming what seems like dangerously intoxicated, and then drive home calmly and safely without incident.
In a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court case dated February 18, 2020, the police tested the blood of a woman named Terra. They did not attempt to get a warrant permitting them to draw the blood, they did not advise her that she was entitled to refuse the test, and she then consented to the test. Note: if she had refused the blood test, then her driver’s license would have been suspended automatically for one year.
In any case, the State Supreme Court vacated Terra’s sentence and returned the case to the trial court for a new trial because she had not been advised that she did not to consent to the blood test.
Terra is not a very sympathetic figure. The blood test results indicated a fairly high level of alcohol, in fact in the “highest” category under the DUI statute. She obviously should not have been driving and it is lucky that she apparently did not have an accident.
However, the rules regarding DUI investigations apply to everyone, regardless of whether you have a drink or two with dinner at a restaurant with friends or whether you stagger around a bar slopping down alcohol that no one should have been willing to serve you.
In other words, unless you absolutely never drink while dining out and then drive home (which is true for some people), the rules regarding blood tests may at some point be applied to you. Yes, you. 😊
If the police do not have the right to cause a needle to be forced into your arm without a warrant, in other words if you have the right to refuse the test, then you should be told that. Otherwise, you are unable to make a knowing, intelligent, and therefore voluntary decision whether or not to allow the blood test or just take the one year license suspension.
Keep in mind that the police can attempt to have your blood drawn even if you are not behaving erratically and even if you have committed no traffic violations. You could be stopped on the way home from dinner because, let’s say, the middle brake light above your rear dashboard is out. If your breath smells at all of alcohol, which it well might even if you only had a drink or two and are driving fine, you could be ordered out of the car to attempt to perform some physical tests. If the police officer happens to not be satisfied with your performance, even if you for the most part did fairly well, then he or she can request that you consent to a blood test. It is not illegal to drive if your blood alcohol is under “.08”. If the blood test reveals that your blood alcohol level in fact is exactly .08 or slightly above, then you will be charged with DUI, even if you are driving just fine.
By the way, have you ever tried to take a field sobriety test just for the heck of it? Unless you are young and athletic, good luck. Watch some traffic stops on YouTube. YouTube usually shows vehicle stops involving people who can hardly stand up. But, ignore that for a moment while watching the video and see how well you do at following the officer’s instructions.
If the police do not have the right to cause a needle to be forced into your arm without a warrant, in other words if you have the right to refuse the test, then you should be told that. Otherwise, you are unable to make a knowing, intelligent, and therefore voluntary decision whether or not to allow the blood test.
If your blood is tested and you then are charged with DUI, and you hire my firm, we will find out if you were advised that you did not have to consent to the blood test. You deserve to have that issue explored, along with every other possible defense to the charge.