In the wake of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision regarding what police can and can not do during a DWI stop, many are wondering how this will affect Texas drivers. The short answer is that it will and it will not.
The takeaway from the High Court’s historic decision is twofold. In the first instance the Supreme Court ruled that the police are not allowed to take a blood sample from a DWI suspect except in rare and extraordinary circumstances. This ruling overturned several state laws that not only required drivers to give a blood sample, but made it a crime not to comply.
This was not really news as the court recently said as much in a decision in which a man was convicted of DWI after being forced to give a blood sample. In that case, the High Court overturned the DWI conviction and sent it back to the state court. This decision had a large impact on Texas cases, and even caused numerous convictions to be reversed. This happened because of a previous Texas law that required DWI suspects to give blood samples in certain situations.
The other, bigger takeaway from the Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota was regarding breathalyzers. In a stunning turn of events, the Supreme Court ruled that police do not need a warrant to force a DWI suspect to take a breathalyzer test. To justify their ruling, the majority of the court said that a breathalyzer is significantly less intrusive than a blood draw. Of course the procedure may be less invasive, but the rest is not. Like a blood draw, a breath test reveals very intimate details about a citizen’s life to be used as evidence against them in a prosecution. The High Court did not see the case in those terms.
Effect on Texas Law
Now the people want to know what affect this decision will have on Texas law. This is a bit complicated, but as far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned, a police officer can demand a breathalyzer from a DWI suspect and not face any negative consequences. But this is not the case when it comes to the Texas Constitution.
Under Texas law a driver suspected of DWI can refuse to take a breathalyzer at a police officer’s request, but doing so will result in civil penalties for the driver, like a suspended license. So even if a police officer can constitutionally demand a breathalyzer from a driver, under Texas law the DWI suspect should still be protected from a forced test.
Of course this could all change in the blink of an eye. If there is one issue that the public and lawmakers feel strongly about it is punishing drunk drivers (as an aside, this is why it is so important to hire an aggressive DWI defense team to protect your rights). With this new decision by the court ruling that warrantless breathalyzers are fine under the law, the legislature could easily pass a law demanding DWI suspects submit to a breathalyzer, essentially forcing them to testify against themselves in court.
In order to defend your rights, and ensure you are not taken advantage of in your DWI case, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will aggressively defend your case, and ensure that every avenue of defense is defended in front of the prosecutor, judge, and jury.
(photo courtesy of KOMUnews)