United States Supreme Court rulings can have wide-reaching consequences. With DUI being a crime that knows no demographic, the ruling affects anyone who may find themselves on the wrong side of a traffic stop for suspected drunk driving.
A recent ruling (Birchfield v. North Dakota) involved a longstanding practice in determining blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The high court held that breath and blood tests constituted a search. Justices also concluded that while breath tests do not raise significant privacy concerns, blood tests are more intrusive and not constitutional without a search warrant.
Protocols Increasing The Severity Of Drunk Driving Charges?
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the York County District Attorney’s Office implemented new policies and protocols on when to apply for search warrants to secure blood samples.
Refusal of the blood test after a search warrant was secured could lead to charges of obstructing the administration of law in addition to DUI charges. The penalties for those two crimes would equal a drunk driving charge with a BAC at least double the legal limit.
While obstruction charges are an option, they are not automatic. According to the D.A.’s Office in York County, each case will be considered individually and judged by specific characteristics. Options outside obstruction charges may be considered in plea agreements and sentence recommendations offered by prosecutors.
Public Safety Versus Constitutionality
As expected, the new policies and protocols have created controversy in the legal community. Defense arguments center on the language of the statute, the appropriateness of the additional obstruction charge, and its overall federal and state constitutionality.
Prosecutors counter with case law and the need for people to cooperate with a valid search warrant. Their goal is to avoid potentially hazardous situations that drunk driving creates.