Last month, after reviewing a series of drunk driving-related cases, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in a 5-3 decision that could change local DUI and DWI laws throughout the country. The court ruled that while police officers must obtain a search warrant to collect a blood draw from a suspected intoxicated driver, they can require drivers to submit to breathalyzer tests without a warrant. The court’s reasoning was based on the fact that breathalyzer tests are minimally invasive and don’t take samples of biological material.
“Because breath tests are significantly less intrusive than blood tests and in most cases amply serve law enforcement interests, we conclude that a breath test, but not a blood test, may be administered as a search incident to a lawful arrest for drunk driving,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the court’s ruling. “As in all cases involving reasonable searches incident to arrest, a warrant is not needed in this situation.”
Two Justices – Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – expressed dissent in the ruling and argued that warrants should be required in all cases. Otherwise, the court could risk setting a precedent that undermines that Fourth Amendment. In the words of Justice Sotomayor, “I fear that if the court continues down this road, the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement will become nothing more than a suggestion.”
So What Does This Mean for Texans?
For the moment, the Supreme Court’s decision won’t have an immediate effect on drivers in Texas. Currently, Texas law allows for drivers to refuse breathalyzer and blood tests, except in cases where a warrant is obtained for a blood draw. The court’s ruling allows for law enforcement agencies to require breathalyzer tests without a warrant, but it doesn’t change current local legislation.
The ruling does, however, allow for the possibility of legislation changes in the future. Local jurisdictions may enact new laws that make it a criminal offense for drivers to refuse breathalyzer tests. It will be up to drivers in Texas to stay informed about their local laws to protect themselves in case they’re pulled over on suspicion of intoxicated driving. You can search for and review your local laws and ordinances on the website of the Texas State Law Library.
If you’ve been accused of a DWI in Texas, you need the best legal representation you can get to plead your case effectively. At Jim Medley & Associates, our experienced attorneys have helped thousands of people to successfully fight DWI charges in court. Receive your free consultation online today, or give us a call to learn more.