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US Supreme Court to rule on DWI blood test issue

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case addressing whether police are required to obtain a warrant before drawing blood samples from people suspected of driving while intoxicated.

Courts and law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are divided on whether warrantless blood draws violate the ban on unreasonable searches and seizures set forth in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain permission from a judge before conducting most searches and seizures of people or their property in order to prevent too much power from being placed in the hands of police.

Law enforcement agencies argue that they should not have to obtain a warrant before requiring drivers suspected of DWI to submit to a blood test, since alcohol dissipates in the bloodstream over time and the delays involved in seeking a warrant may cause evidence to be lost in some cases.

On the other hand, defense attorneys and civil liberties advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union argue that warrantless blood draws intrude on drivers’ constitutional rights without significantly improving public safety. They point out that many state and local governments require police to obtain warrants before drawing blood, and have managed to do so successfully in thousands of cases.

San Antonio “no refusal” policy

In Texas, state law provides that all drivers in the state give their “implied consent” to undergo blood or breath testing when requested by an officer conducting a lawful DWI arrest. However, because some drivers still refuse to provide a sample, many law enforcement agencies in Texas – including the San Antonio Police Department – now use search warrants to perform tests on drivers who do not submit voluntarily.

The Texas Department of Transportation provided a $1.4 million grant to the San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in 2012 to help fund the so-called “no refusal” policy, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The no-refusal program, which was previously limited to weekends, is now in effect every day of the year in the San Antonio area. The program provides extra police officers, medical technicians and other staff to help expedite the process of obtaining warrants and blood samples in cases of suspected DWI.

People facing DWI charges in Texas risk serious legal and personal consequences if convicted, including potential jail time, steep fines and license suspension. If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of DWI in Texas, it is important to seek help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your rights and fight for an optimal resolution to the charges.