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Supreme Court: states may not criminalize blood test refusal

Readers may be familiar with the term implied consent, which refers to state implied consent laws under which licensed motorists are deemed to have consented to chemical testing for purposes of determining intoxication. Different states have different penalties for refusing to submit to chemical testing, with some imposing administrative or civil penalties and others imposing criminal penalties.

Last month, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case involving the issue of whether states may, under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, impose criminal penalties for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The case dealt specifically with breath and blood testing. 

The court ultimately ruled that the Fourth Amendment does allow states to impose criminal penalties on drivers who refuse breath testing, but not on drivers who refuse blood testing. The reasoning is that the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement protects drunk-driving suspects from overly intrusive searches, even when those searches are justified as incident to an arrest.

The result of the law is that states may no longer impose criminal penalties upon drivers who refuse to submit to blood tests. To do so is to impose an unreasonable requirement. The thirteen states which currently do criminalize blood test refusal, then, will have to change their laws to accord with the decision. States may retain the criminal sanctions for breath test refusals, though.

In a future post, we’ll take a look at the law here in Georgia with respect to implied consent chemical test refusal, and how an experienced advocate can help an individual facing penalties for chemical test refusal.

 

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