Supreme Court Considers Mandatory Blood Sampling
Could drivers be forced to submit to an invasive sobriety test?
Sobriety tests are undeniably effective tools for ascertaining whether a driver is legally intoxicated ¾ and useful to prosecutors who want hard evidence that an accused driver broke the law. But while drunk driving is a very real concern, so are civil rights violations. Reasonable assessments of a driver’s state of inebriation have become more invasive over the years, culminating in this recent request to the U.S. Supreme Court by Missouri prosecutors — to allow police to collect blood samples from drivers suspected of driving under the influence (DUI).
Intrusive tests punish the innocent as well as the guilty
While the Supreme Court has strongly indicated a reluctance to allow warrantless blood tests, as were requested by Missouri prosecutors, the justices appear willing to consider blood testing once a warrant is obtained. This is still cause for concern, as a blood test is by nature a far more invasive procedure than a simple Breathalyzer. Instead of exhaling into a tube, DUI suspects would be forced to allow a needle to be inserted into their arm and have their blood drawn.
Warrantless blood draws would subject drivers to an uncomfortable physical procedure and create a slippery slope when it comes to just how invasive the police can be in their zeal to gather evidence. Without the protection of court orders and warrants, those only suspected of crimes would in effect suffer punishment regardless of their guilt or innocence, with no right to refuse these procedures.
A faulty premise — blood tests would result in more convictions
The theory that blood testing would provide definitive evidence of guilt is also faulty. If a warrant is required first —as it should be — then by the time the blood test was completed and the results analyzed, in all likelihood the accused driver’s blood alcohol level (BAC) would have dissipated, so the so-called hard evidence would be all but worthless to the prosecution anyway. And there is no getting around that warrantless blood draws would be challenged by any respectable DUI defense attorney as unconstitutional, rendering the evidence collected pointless. If the prosecution chose to hinge its case on such evidence, then those guilty of drunk driving would probably walk free.
In all likelihood, mandatory blood testing with or without warrants will have the opposite effect of what the prosecution from Missouri intended, as well as violate the civil rights of the accused.