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Effect of high court ruling on DUI laws is up in the air, Part 2

In our blog post published on March 27, we discussed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that had a significant, immediate impact on defending against drunk driving charges. Although the Missouri v. McNeeley ruling was made several months ago, the full range of impacts is yet to be seen.

Namely, the legal community has wondered how requiring warrants for blood tests will affect driving under the influence of drug charges. This is especially pertinent given conversations throughout the country about legalizing recreational marijuana use. Beyond that, however, many are wondering what effect the ruling will have on implied consent laws throughout the country.

Implied consent laws can vary from state to state, but South Carolina law includes punishments for refusing to take a breath test for blood-alcohol content. As we discussed in a different blog post from March 14, South Carolina drivers consent to breath tests by driving within the borders of the state. In the McNeeley decision, the justices upheld the right of individuals to refuse a blood test, effectively requiring police to obtain a warrant. Some observers believe that the right to refuse could be extended to breath tests, but others aren't as certain.

One of the other problems individuals often raise in terms of implied consent laws is coercion. In general, coercion invalidates any police search or seizure. The idea is that drivers are often warned that they will face legal penalties if they don't take a breath test, which many people view as coercive action taken by law enforcement.

The ground is still settling on the issues surrounding the top court's decision to require warrants for blood-alcohol testing. In the mean time, South Carolina's implied consent law is still in place. With that said, however, the situation could still evolve in the coming years with subsequent judicial challenges.

Source: ABA Journal, “SCOTUS ruling could complicate laws on impaired driving,” Lorelei Laird, April 1, 2014

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