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Supreme Court discusses warrantless BAC tests

photo of Christian A. Schwaner

Christian A. Schwaner

The United States Supreme Court recently entertained arguments over allowing police officers to violate a citizen's rights by forcing them into taking a blood alcohol test without a search warrant.

The debate is tied to a recent incident that occurred in another state where officers forced a man into partaking in a blood alcohol test even though they did not have a warrant. The man was driving erratically and failed a field sobriety test. The results of the blood alcohol test clearly showed that he was intoxicated, but a court threw out the findings because the officers did not attempt to obtain a search warrant. The state's Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Lawyers for that state, with the support of the Obama administration, are asking the nation's high court to allow officers to force blood alcohol tests on suspected drunk drivers. By doing this, according to the lawyers, it would offer less time for the concentration of alcohol to dissipate in a driver's blood, providing a more accurate picture on whether or not that driver was intoxicated.

Regardless of partisan affiliation, none of the justices on the high court appeared to find favor in these measures. While Supreme Court justices said they do not want to put obstacles in the way of law enforcement's efforts to determine the blood alcohol content of a driver, they admitted that giving police the power to pin down a suspect and stick a needle in their arm was certainly not the answer.

While the hasty action might not be the solution, there is no doubt that the United States continues to suffer a rash of auto accidents involving a driver that is impaired by alcohol. In 2010, the U.S. saw 10,000 fatalities from these types of accidents.

While drunk driving is certainly an epidemic that our lawmakers should help bring to an end, they cannot stomp all over a citizen's rights to do it. Those that have been stopped and accused of drunk driving and feel like their rights were not met can duck subsequent charges.

Source: Associated Press, "Court wary of warrantless blood tests in DUI cases," Mark Sherman, Jan. 9, 2013

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