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Supreme Court decision impacting enforcement of impaired driving laws

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in McNeely v. Missouri, which stated that police could not forcibly draw blood from those suspected of impaired driving in all cases where the drivers refuses to take a test. The Court's decision has been having an impact on the way that states enforce their impaired driving laws in 2014, and an Idaho law may conflict with the Court's decision.

Supreme Court decision

In McNeely, police stopped a driver on suspicion of impaired driving. Police reported that the man displayed "telltale signs" of intoxication, such as blurred eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath, and he failed field sobriety tests. The driver refused a breath and blood test. Police drew his blood anyway, despite the refusal, but did not obtain a warrant prior to doing so.

The man was eventually convicted of driving under the influence, and he appealed on the basis that the police should have obtained a warrant to draw his blood. The state supreme court agreed with the man and overturned his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that, given the intrusive nature of drawing blood, police need to assess on a case-by-case basis whether a warrantless blood draw is reasonable. Laws that give police blanket authority to draw blood in every instance a driver refuses to submit voluntarily, therefore, violate the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements.

Idaho's implied consent law

Idaho has an implied consent law, meaning that in exchange for the privilege of holding a driver's license in the state, a driver agrees to take a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content if ever arrested for suspicion of DUI. Some experts believe that the decision in McNeely means that Idaho's implied consent law does not justify warrantless forcible blood draws on those suspected of DUI who refuse chemical tests. Idaho Supreme Court cases have upheld forcible blood draws in these instances, on the theory that drivers do not have the right to revoke the consent they give when obtaining a license. However, many argue that the Supreme Court decision means that police need to demonstrate that there are exigent circumstances that would make obtaining a warrant too difficult in order to draw blood without a warrant.

Handling DUI charges

DUI charges can cause huge upheaval in people's lives. These cases can become complicated, given the ever-evolving nature of the law, as McNeely demonstrates. It is important for those facing such charges to have a skilled attorney who is well-versed in impaired driving laws to assist them. If you are facing DUI charges, speak with a seasoned DUI defense attorney who can help defend your rights.

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