Supreme Court Hears Arguments in DUI Blood Test Case

The United States Supreme court recently heard oral arguments in a case that will affect drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures. Specifically, the issue in the case, Missouri v. McNeely is whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant before ordering a blood test for alcohol.

Background of Case

The facts of the case began in October 2010 when a Missouri highway patrol officer stopped Tyler McNeely for speeding. During the stop, the officer suspected that McNeely had been drinking. As a result, the officer ordered McNeely to perform a series of field sobriety tests, all of which McNeely failed.

Having failed the field tests, the officer asked McNeely to submit to a Breathalyzer test, which he refused. As a result, the officer transported him to a hospital and asked him to submit to a blood test, which he also refused. The officer then ordered the hospital staff to take a blood sample without McNeely’s consent, even though a warrant was not first obtained. The test showed that McNeely’s blood alcohol concentration was more than twice the legal limit. As a result, McNeely was charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

Before trial, McNeely’s attorney made a motion to exclude the results of the blood test, because it was conducted without his client’s consent and without a warrant. The trial court agreed, but its decision was overturned on appeal. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that a warrant was necessary and threw out the blood evidence. The State of Missouri appealed the issue to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s decision will likely depend on its interpretation of its own 1966 decision, Schmerber v. California, which the Missouri Court of Appeals relied on to overturn the trial court. In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the admissibility of a blood sample without a warrant. The court ruled that a warrant was not always necessary, as the blood alcohol concentration in the bloodstream diminishes over time as the alcohol is metabolized. Therefore, police are justified in collecting a sample without a warrant, as any delay would lead to a possible destruction of evidence.

At oral argument, justices seemed skeptical of Missouri’s attempt to take blood evidence without a warrant, which may signal that the court may overrule its own previous decision in Schmerber. However, the justices’ conduct during oral argument does not always indicate how they will ultimately vote. The decision is expected later this spring.

Consult a criminal defense attorney

If you or a loved one is charged with driving under the influence, contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can assess your case and ensure that your rights are protected.

Federal Agency: Mandate Ignition Interlock Devices for All Drunk Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a federal agency dedicated to improving motor vehicle and traffic safety. The NHTSA promotes its mission by setting safety performance standards for motor vehicles, distributing grants to state and local governments, and making recommendations to lawmaking bodies based on the agency’s research.

In December, 2012, the NHTSA made an unprecedented recommendation to state governments: require the use of ignition interlock devices by everyone convicted of a drunk driving offense, even first-time offenders. An ignition interlock device is a machine that takes and test breath samples from drivers; if the sample tests positive for alcohol, the vehicle’s engine is automatically disabled and the authorities are notified. Currently, 17 states already have laws requiring the use of ignition interlock devices by all convicted drunk drivers.

Ignition interlock is required for DUI diversion, conviction in Oregon

If you are charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants in Oregon (“DUI” or “DUII” for short), an ignition interlock could be in your future. Although a strong legal defense may help you get charges dismissed, a conviction means you’ll wind up with an ignition interlock even for a first-time offense.

Under Oregon’s DUII diversion program, you make an agreement with the court that will ultimately lead to the dismissal of your charges if you comply with the court’s orders. Typically, a diversion requirement for a first-time DUI offender lasts a year and requires you to pay fines, attend a victim impact panel, and obtain alcohol evaluation and treatment; you will also have to install an approved ignition interlock device on all the vehicles you operate.

Diversion can be expensive, and certainly takes some effort – but it also helps you avoid the risks of trial. If you are convicted at trial, you will still have to face the possibility of an ignition interlock, along with other more serious sanctions.

If you are convicted of DUII, your regular driver license will be suspended for a period of time. In order to obtain a hardship permit – which will allow you to legally drive during a period of regular license suspension in order to get to and from work, drive on the job, seek employment, get required medical treatment or participate in a substance abuse rehabilitation program – you will have to install an ignition interlock on any vehicles you drive. Whether or not you pursue a hardship permit, after your regular DUII license suspension ends, you must maintain an ignition interlock on vehicles you drive for a certain period of time: one year for first-time offenses, two years for second and subsequent offenses.

Defend against DUI charges by contacting an attorney

If you have been charged with drunk driving in Oregon, the only way to completely eliminate the possibility of an ignition interlock is to get your charges dropped. Talk to a DUII defense attorney today to explore your legal options.

Space Age Alcohol Detection System Funded In 2012 Transportation Bill

Most drivers are aware that a DUI conviction can lead to the installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. An ignition interlock, of course, will not allow a vehicle to start unless the driver breathes into the device and passes a test for alcohol consumption; the driver may also be required to periodically provide a breath sample while the engine is in operation.

The consequences of a DUI arrest can be harsh if you are ultimately convicted, and an ignition interlock may be the least of your worries. But forget alcohol testing as a consequence: some in Congress are pushing for the development of a new technology that would subject all drivers to alcohol testing, to the tune of 24 million taxpayer dollars.

Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Would Be Everyman Ignition Interlock

Ignition interlocks are clunky, aftermarket systems in which drivers must blow into a tube to start their vehicles. As a required component in vehicles, no one is seriously optimistic about the reception such an obtrusive system would receive from the American public as a standard vehicle component.

But what about a discrete, sensor-based alcohol detection technology wired directly into the electronics system of the vehicle? No tubes, no clumsy equipment, just a seamlessly integrated system that would prevent drivers over the legal limit from starting their vehicles.

A technology known as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, is now being developed in an effort to eliminate invasiveness from behind the wheel alcohol detection. Two different conceptions of the technology – one that would automatically measure alcohol in the driver’s breath and another that would utilize touch technology to take a reading from points of contact with the driver’s skin – are being explored by researchers working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA insists it has no current plans to mandate DADSS for all vehicles (an easy promise to make, considering the technology is not expected to hit the market for at least eight years), and proponents claim that DADSS systems would not be calibrated to lock out a driver unless he or she was over the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08. However, some critics are skeptical of cars that could potentially override the driver’s commands and fear a slippery slope towards zero tolerance for alcohol consumption. Others are simply weary of excessive spending; transportation legislation currently in Congress earmarks $24 million over the next two years for the development of DADSS.

With New Technology Years Off, Heavy Penalties Still Used To Prevent Drunk Driving

Even though it is far from implementation, DADSS is certainly breathing new life into the national drunk driving dialogue. But, until we can rely on advanced technology to combat impaired driving, the draconian penalties for DUI will continue to be the government’s tool of choice, to the detriment of those convicted of drunk driving. If you are facing a drunk driving charge, protect your rights and your future by contacting a DUI defense attorney today.

Oregon Driver Arrested On Suspicion of Being Drunk – Had Kids in the Car

Samuel Lee Sanders, 37, was arrested in early April on a laundry list of charges. Police in Washington County booked Sanders on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), reckless endangering, reckless driving, refusal of a breath test and driving with a suspended license.

Significantly, Sanders had two young children with him in the car at the time of his arrest. If he is unable to stage a successful Oregon drunk driving defense, this could mean substantially increased penalties.

Reckless Endangering Charge Tacked On For DUII With Children in the Car

Under Oregon law, reckless endangering of another person is committed by engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of injury to another person. Often, a reckless endangering charge accompanies drunk driving allegations.

There are generally three scenarios in which a DUII case can also include reckless endangering: if you were in a car accident, if you almost hit someone else or if you had a child in the vehicle at the time of your arrest. Remember, for a reckless endangering charge to stick, the other person does not actually have to have been harmed, only placed at risk of harm; if you are found to have caused actual injury to someone else as a result of drunk driving, you may be charged with assault.

Like a first DUII offense, reckless endangering is a Class A misdemeanor. When it comes about from operation of a motor vehicle, it can carry a fine of more than $6,000, a jail term and a period of drivers’ license suspension that increases with each subsequent offense.

Any time you are charged with DUII in Oregon, it is a serious matter. But, when there is a child with you at the time of arrest, you potentially face even greater penalties. If you were arrested for DUII with a minor in the vehicle, protect yourself: contact an experienced Portland DUII attorney today and begin building a strong legal defense.