Houston readers may have heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding blood testing of drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated.
The case involved a state trooper that had administered a blood test on a driver after the man failed several field sobriety tests. The test indicated that the man’s blood alcohol content was 0.154 percent. However, a state court did not allow the evidence because the official had failed to request a warrant before taking the blood draw, allegedly in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The Supreme Court agreed that there might be certain circumstances that justify a warrantless search and seizure, such as when evidence is about to be destroyed. However, it disagreed that BAC level qualified under that exception, stating that typical DWI arrest circumstances permit enough time for an official to obtain a warrant.
Certain Texas counties rely on blood testing as part of their standard arsenal in the war against drunk driving. For example, El Paso is a no refusal county. That means that drivers pulled over on suspicion of DWI must either agree to breath testing or submit to blood testing. However, the warrant requirement still applies in such circumstances. Drivers who exercise their right of refusal must wait while officials execute a search warrant for a blood draw. Due to the county’s no refusal approach, however, that warrant process is streamlined.
Readers may be familiar with BAC charts calibrated by an individual’s weight and the number of drinks he or she has consumed. Such charts often have find print advising that it takes about an hour for the average drinker’s liver to remove 12 ounces of beer from the body. Given that slow absorption rate, there may be little, if any, strategic advantage to refusing a breath test and requiring police to obtain a blood draw warrant — especially in no refusal counties.