New Jersey Drunk Driving Laws May Change After Supreme Court Ruling

The United States Supreme Court has announced that it will be deciding a case early next year that determines whether state laws that require drivers to submit to blood and breath tests when officers suspect them of driving under the influence are constitutional. In an effort to round up people suspected of drunk driving, many states require drivers to consent to tests as part of their licensing regulations. In some states, a jury may even consider an individual’s refusal to submit to a blood or breath test as evidence of guilt.

One man is trying to change that. He was driving in 2010 when a police officer pulled him over for speeding. When the officer got to the car, he believed the driver had been drinking and started to administer field sobriety tests. Because the man failed them and because it was reported that he had difficulty standing and speaking, the officer arrested him and asked him to take a breath test.

Refusing, the man was taken to a local hospital to have his blood drawn. The officer had not gotten a warrant for the blood draw, nor had he even tried. Instead, he ordered the lab technician to take the suspect’s blood. The results indicated that the man was nearly two times the legal limit, but the man is fighting the state’s ability to use evidence from the warrantless blood test in court.

According to the man and his lawyers, warrantless and mandatory blood or breath tests are illegal under the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by throwing out any evidence that was obtained without a warrant or outside of a situation in which a warrant is not required.

It remains to be seen what effect this will have on New Jersey, but it may force police to try harder to get warrants when they want to test drivers’ blood.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Supreme Court to rule on forced tests for DUI suspects,” David G. Savage, Sept. 25, 2012