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Supreme Court decision could affect how DWI cases are handled in some states, P.1

On Wednesday, oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court on the issue of whether police should be required to obtain a warrant to draw blood from DWI suspects. The case giving rise to the appeal involves a Missouri law permitting officers to force DWI suspects to submit to a blood draw without a warrant. Attorneys for a Missouri man forced to undergo a blood test argue that the law is unconstitutional.

The law is based on the fact that alcohol dissipates quickly from a suspect's bloodstream, making it important for police to draw blood quickly to obtain an accurate reading. The state of Missouri argues that the law is not unconstitutional as it falls within an exception to the general warrant requirement.

Alcohol, Missouri argues, dissipates in the bloodstream at a rate of .015 to .20 percentage points per hour. In Missouri, as in other states, the legal limit for alcohol is .08.

Attorneys for the Missouri man say that police typically obtain warrants in less than half an hour, and point out that modern technology makes the process quicker in most areas of the country. They also argue that Missouri law allows DWI suspects to refuse a blood test, even if not without consequences.

Every state has some form of implied consent law, which requires DWI suspects to submit to chemical testing. Refusal to submit to such a test results in some consequence, often driver's license suspension.

In our next post, we'll continue with this topic.

Source: Huffington Post, "Warrantless DUI Blood Tests Draw Concern From Supreme Court," Mark Sherman, January 9, 2012

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