Area of Law:
A majority of states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have “implied consent” laws that give law enforcement officials the right to administer a sobriety test -- usually a blood, urine or breathalyzer test. For drivers, the penalty for refusing these tests if often harsher than being convicted of a DUI.
But in Tennessee, regulators have taken the law one step further, giving cops the right to forcibly take samples to test to see if drivers are intoxicated.
Could Pennsylvania or New Jersey be next?
How implied consent works
Under most states’ implied consent laws, by getting a driver license, you agree to submit to a breathalyzer, blood or urine test if a cop suspects you of being under the influence.
Officials are able to enforce this rule because the penalty for refusing to submit to the test is often higher than the penalties associated with a DUI charge.
In Pennsylvania, for example, your license can be suspended for up to a year for your first refusal to take a sobriety test. What’s more, if you are later convicted of being under the influence, you will face penalties for both the DUI and the refusal to take the test.
Proponents of the law say the tests need to be administered right away to get an accurate blood-alcohol reading. Otherwise, drivers will be able to sober up enough to pass the test by the time it’s given.
However, if drivers are willing to face the additional penalties, they can still refuse to take the tests under implied consent laws.
Tenneesee forces drivers to get tested
But that’s not the case in Tennessee anymore.
During “no refusal” periods, including holiday weekends where DUI checkpoints are common, judges are on call to issue warrants allowing police to forcibly collect the sample, even if the driver directly objects or refuses.
Denying drivers their rights?
It’s difficult to fault the intent of the laws -- an attempt to crack down on drivers who are able to dodge criminal charges.
But the many who oppose the laws say the forced blood tests are degrading and a violation of basic Constitutional rights.
What’s more, there are concerns that once a DUI suspects DNA is added to a state’s criminal database, it could be used in investigations unrelated to the initial traffic stop or checkpoint.
About the author
Paul Young is a Bucks County DUI attorney. His law firm, Young Klein & Associates has been representing clients charge with DUI in Pennsylvania for over 15 years. If you or someone close to you is facing a DUI/DWI charge, an aggressive DUI defense lawyer may be all that stands between you and a life-altering conviction. Call our law offices today to get the help and peace of mind you need during this trying time in your life.