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Fairfax/Manassas Criminal & Personal Injury Blog

Drivers in Virginia who are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence and are subsequently confronted with drunk driving charges are generally charged based on a breath test or a blood test used to determine whether or not they have more than the legal limit of alcohol in their system. A driver might commit breath test refusal and be charged for that independent of whether or not they are over the legal limit. Another charge can come from blood test refusal. However, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court might affect how evidence is accrued in an arrest after blood tests. In addition, the laws of the state that make it an offense to refuse to take a blood test a second time might need to be changed.

According to the Supreme Court, the drawing of blood is sufficiently invasive that it makes a search warrant necessary. The breath test is less invasive. The decision came in June of 2016 and legal experts believe that changes to state laws and how blood is drawn might have to come with it. Blood tests will be used less often, they expect, because of the warrant issue.

Blood tests can still be used as evidence in a DUI case, but it is now unconstitutional to punish a person for refusal. It is still possible for law enforcement to get a search warrant and draw blood. This is commonly used when it is believed a suspected offender has been using drugs instead of alcohol.

The ruling ended the idea that a driver who gets behind the wheel will be subject to blood testing based on that alone. State laws that say refusing a blood test is a crime were completely rejected. With that, the state is going to need to adjust the blood test refusal law due to its newfound unconstitutionality. In Virginia, the officer has the right to determine which type of test to request, breath or blood. With this new ruling, it may grow more common for officers to request breath tests instead of blood tests.

Those who are stopped by law enforcement on suspicion of driving under the influence must be aware of the ruling made by the Supreme Court if a request for a blood test is made. Regardless of the circumstances with drunk driving charges, having legal help is essential. An attorney who has a wide range of experience in defending clients who are placed under arrest on DUI/DWI charges can provide that assistance. Taking a legal defense could help a defendant reduce or even dismiss the charges against them.

Source:, "High court ruling raises stakes in DUI blood testing in Virginia," Christopher Cole, Nov. 19, 2016

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