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Could Warrantless Blood Draws Be on the Horizon in Routine Pennsylvania DUI Cases?

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law provides that drivers are deemed to consent to chemical blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing of breath, blood or urine by virtue of operating, driving or being in physical control of a vehicle in Pennsylvania. When a police officer with “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is driving under the influence (DUI) stops him or her, if the driver refuses a chemical BAC test, he or she will face the additional penalty of a driver license suspension along with DUI penalties.

Pennsylvania attorney discusses forcible extraction of blood for DUI chemical testing

The scope of informed consent laws in Pennsylvania and other states could be expanded significantly based on a Missouri case that will soon be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. States are increasingly using forced blood testing when drivers decline to consent to breath testing. Some states operate “no consent” DUI checkpoints where a judge is on-call to issue a warrant for a forcible blood draw when a motorist refuses to submit to a breath test. Other states even permit forced blood draws without a warrant, but it usually involves special circumstances, such as when another person is injured in an accident.

Protecting Fourth Amendment Rights against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

In the Missouri case, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether implied consent laws may be extended to permit a warrantless blood draw where there are no special circumstances and no emergency to justify the draw. The government’s position is that the potential loss of evidence from the body’s natural metabolism of alcohol should be enough to justify forcibly taking blood for BAC chemical testing when a driver refuses a chemical test of his or her breath.

This case could have a significant impact on the ability of law enforcement officers to physically extract blood by force for DUI chemical testing. Because chemical testing of blood represents the most reliable form of BAC testing, the ability of police officers to enforce mandatory blood extraction in a routine DUI case could result in far more DUI convictions.

While a first offense BAC chemical test refusal will result in a one year suspension of your driver license or an 18 month suspension for a subsequent violation, the state may have a much harder time proving their DUI case without BAC chemical test results. This analysis may change considerably if Pennsylvania eventually permits forcible blood draws in run-of-the-mill DUI cases.

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