Implied consent laws allow law enforcement officials in most states to issue blood draw tests if they suspect that a driver is operating a vehicle while intoxicated; even if the driver does not not give consent for a blood test, most states permit police officers to give a mandatory blood draw if the driver in question is involved in a serious car accident or has been convicted of DWI or DUI before.
But this allowance was ruled unconstitutional by the Texas 13th Court of Appeals on November 26, and it was decided that Texas’s implied consent law violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects Americans against unlawful search and seizure.
Sources say that this ruling stemmed from an appeal filed by Texan David Villarreal, who was charged with DWI back in 2012. Villarreal was pulled over for a traffic violation and was subsequently arrested after officers suspected that he was driving while intoxicated, and after Villarreal refused to perform field sobriety tests to prove otherwise.
Villarreal was taken to a nearby hospital where his blood was drawn, without his consent and without a warrant, because he had refused the less invasive tests, and had been convicted with DWI twice already.
The hospital blood tests showed that Villarreal’s blood alcohol content was .16 — twice the legal limit — but thanks to the recent court ruling, the mandatory test was unconstitutional and the test results, therefore, are inadmissible.
Judge Elsa Alcala, who oversaw the ruling, noted that DWI suspects who have received past convictions and have completed their sentences should not be denied privacy on the grounds of “conditional liberty.” While DWI parolees and probationers should expect to have limited privacy rights, Alcala states, DWI convicts with completed sentences shouldn’t be be given a lifetime of punishment for their past transgressions.
The ruling still leaves room for blood draws in “emergency situations,” according to a local news source, but these situations will be limited to fatal accidents. In all other situations, law enforcement officials will either have to receive consent from the driver in question, or will have to obtain a warrant from a magistrate.
Although this ruling could be seen as a hindrance to Texas police officers — and at a very critical time of the year, when DWI and DUI arrests tend to skyrocket — it seems that law enforcement officials will still have plenty of resources when it comes to controlling drunk driving.