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Blood or breath tests: Why a blood test requires a warrant

Imagine being told that you must submit to a blood test or face a criminal charge. The police have no warrant for your arrest or the blood test, yet the law states you must oblige. That's not fair, and it's not constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court determined that a Minnesota law that forced individuals to submit to blood tests without a warrant was illegal. According to the 2016 ruling, the state may not force individuals to submit to a test, but it may penalize those who do not, using the criminalization of the act to force each person's hand.

The court ruled on this issue as a result of three cases. One involved a man who was driving drunk. He was found stumbling out of his vehicle. The breath test was not intrusive, and the impact on his privacy was slight enough that the Fourth Amendment allows for the test, claiming the test is incident to arrest for drunk driving. However, when it comes to blood tests, those are more intrusive. The alternative breath test is more legally acceptable, and there is no significant reason to seek a blood test over a breath test without a warrant, according to the ruling.

While some cases might require a blood test -- like if drugs could be the reason behind the intoxication -- police have time to seek out a blood test with a warrant. No warrant is needed for a breath test. Additionally, motorists can't be criminally penalized for refusing a blood test, since it is far more intrusive than the alternative.

If you're stopped and told you must give your blood for a blood alcohol test, know your rights. Your attorney can help you stand up for yourself and make sure police are following the law.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "U.S. Supreme Court upholds MN breath test law for DUI," Bob Collins, accessed Feb. 23, 2017

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