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Supreme Court hears arguments regarding blood alcohol tests

On April 20, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the rights of states to file criminal charges against a person who does not consent to a blood alcohol test. While Illinois is not one of the states that does so, a person's license can be suspended in for refusing such a test. However, that is considered an administrative penalty and not criminal.

There are 13 states that make refusal of the test a criminal offense. While the justices initially appeared to be on the side of the states, that shifted when they realized that the tests in question were not the ones performed at the roadside but those done after a person was taken into custody.

Justice Breyer asked why it was not possible to make a phone call and get a search warrant if the person is already at the police station. Justice Sotomayor expressed concern that the need for search warrants, an important component of the legal system, was being ignored.

Attorneys for Minnesota and North Dakota defended the laws of their states, but they faced a great deal of questioning from the justices. While all states recognize that getting a driver's license implies consent to a blood alcohol test, refusing to do so might not be a crime. The court will probably rule on the case in June.

Whether or not they consented to a blood alcohol test, people who are facing drunk driving charges may want to have the help of an attorney in fighting them. There may be a number of defenses available. A person's medical condition or prescribed medication might affect the performance on field sobriety tests. A challenge could be made to the administration of the test or to the constitutionality of the stop that led to the arrest.

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