If you’re pulled over, are you required to participate in sobriety testing like Breathalyzer and blood tests? For anyone with a driver’s license, the answer is yes.
Implied consent laws, which are in force in all 50 states, require anyone suspected of drunk driving to participate in tests that determine impairment, such as breath, blood and urine tests.
Drivers automatically give consent to this type of testing when applying for a license.
In general, the risk of getting charged with a DUI is magnified with the help of implied consent laws, as refusing tests automatically leads to license suspension and other penalties.
Several cases are challenging implied consent, some making it to the Supreme Court, which could lead to the elimination of these laws altogether.
If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of DUI, they may be asked to perform a series of tests to determine impairment. These tests fall into two categories, field sobriety tests and chemical tests.
Field sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line, reciting the ABCs, standing on one leg and more, are not required. Chemical tests such as Breathalyzer, blood alcohol content (BAC) and urine tests are required, and refusing any of these leads to automatic license suspension and other penalties depending on each state’s specific laws.
Gaede v. Illinois
The trouble with implied consent was brought to light by Gaede v. Illinois, which has made its way to the Supreme Court and focusses on the Fourth Amendment.
In 2012, Christopher Gaede fled the scene of an accident after hitting a parked car with his motorcycle. He was intercepted by police and asked to perform several field sobriety tests, all of which he failed.
When asked to perform a breath test, Gaede refused. In addition to a 12-month license suspension, his refusal was also used against him at trial, which then resulted in a guilty verdict.
On appeal, Gaede’s attorneys argued that police should have to obtain a warrant in order to collect evidence, in this case biological evidence, instead of relying on the implied consent law.
Essentially, they argued that using implied consent instead of getting a warrant violates constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures.
The Supreme Court announced it will weigh a series of implied consent cases from Michigan, North Dakota and 11 other states to determine whether it’s illegal for police to require BAC tests without securing a warrant.
Depending on what the Supreme Court decides later this year, implied consent laws could be negated around the nation, allowing drivers to refuse a BAC or breath test without that decision having major consequences later on.