Drunk driving blood sampling subject of Supreme Court case

The term "drunk driver" often conjures up images of irresponsible people, maybe in shabby clothing with unkept personal appearances who have the stereotypical look of someone "responsible" people might think of as criminals. However, many a "responsible" person in Pennsylvania has been arrested for impaired driving. Lawyers, teachers, doctors and other professionals are just as likely to be arrested on DUI charges as are any other people. How the law attempts to prove that someone is intoxicated is something that people should pay more attention to than the demographic profile of defendants.

Historically, Pennsylvania law enforcement could request either blood samples or breath samples from drivers they suspected may be impaired without obtaining a search warrant. A new ruling handed down recently by the U.S. Supreme Court, however, changes all of that. While breath samples can still be obtains sans warrants, blood samples cannot. Officers can only draw a defendant's blood after obtaining a warrant.

One of the biggest things this changes is the nature of penalties that some people may face. Under old laws, anyone who refused a blood test could be prosecuted as though they had extremely high blood alcohol content levels. Pennsylvania law takes a graduated approach to DUI penalties so people with BAC levels over 0.15 percent have much stiffer penalties than those with levels at 0.08 or 0.09 percent, for example.

People who have been arrested for suspected drunk driving may wish to talk with an attorney to understand how the new law may effect their case. Getting help in times like these is important given the serious nature of the consequences.


Source: "Supreme Court: Cops need warrant to seize blood in DUI cases," Riley Yates, July 18, 2016

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