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Is criminalizing alcohol test refusal unconstitutional?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2016 | Drunk Driving

A case currently up on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court may change how we think about the answer to this question. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments that posed the question of whether states could criminalize the refusal to submit to alcohol testing when police don’t have a search warrant.

Such testing, according to the drivers appealing their cases, violates the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Do chemical tests fit within an exception to the search warrant requirement?

There are certain exceptions to the warrant requirement, of course, and these include searches incident to a valid arrest. Justices are going to have to determine whether alcohol testing, in any of its forms, can qualify as a search incident to arrest or as any of the other warrant exceptions.

Another question in the case is whether it is reasonable for officers to criminalize refusal to submit to alcohol testing when expedited warrants are available.

How is test refusal treated in Ohio?

Not every state makes it a crime to refuse to submit to alcohol testing, but Ohio is among the states that do. Under Ohio state law, an individual who has been arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol may face criminal penalties for refusing to submit to chemical testing, provided law enforcement officer does everything correctly.

If the court rules in favor of the drivers in the above case, of course, there could be less incentive to cooperate with law enforcement.

Choosing to submit to submit to alcohol testing raises the risk of providing officers with incriminating evidence in a drunk driving case. Refusing to submit may mean you face not only drunk driving charges, but additional penalties as well. This is where immediately speaking with an attorney becomes important in weighing your decision.

Oftentimes, such issues cannot be adequately sorted out in the moment, and must be explored later. When you have questions, speak with one of the skilled criminal defense attorney at Mahaffey & Associates.

Source: Fox News, “High court expresses doubts about drunk driving laws,” Apr. 21, 2016