While the idea of a DUI seems simple in itself (someone is accused of driving under the influence) DUI laws are actually quite complicated. The laws vary from state to state. Penalties will vary. Authorities’ rights might vary. Someone who is suspected and/or accused of driving drunk is easily confused.
Sometimes, the Supreme Court of the United States steps in and actually ends up trying to clarify and simplify matters. A recent ruling regarding DUI and implied consent in particular has an important impact on DUI investigations here in Tennessee.
Two years ago, we shared a blog post discussing the constitutionality of required blood tests in DUI cases. Basically, state law allowed police to require a blood test from an arrested suspect without a warrant. The refusal of that intrusive test would immediately result in penalties, such as a revoked driver’s license.
To the many Tennesseans and Americans who value their freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and to privacy, this aspect of implied consent was troubling, so troubling that the matter was brought before the Supreme Court. And the court agrees: blood tests cannot be immediately required without a warrant. Refusing a blood test that the police want without having a warrant cannot be treated as a crime and, therefore, punished.
This ruling changes things for Tennessee drivers. It provides more protection of their freedoms. Still, authorities will try to get those samples. (Breath tests are still required even without a warrant.) Someone who is investigated and/or accused of DUI should talk to a defense lawyer immediately. Just because the law now says one thing does not mean that all police will follow procedure. When they don’t, you have to fight to protect your rights and freedoms.