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United States Supreme Court Weighs In On Drunk Driving Cases

Recently the United States Supreme Court gave police officers the right to administer warrantless breath tests to anyone they suspect of drunk driving. The case, Birchfield v. North Dakota will affect the laws in eleven states. Some authorities believe that the case will lead to an increase in drunk driving convictions around the country. 

The Supreme Court case focused around an incident in North Dakota in which a person crashed his car, took a breath test and the police found that his blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. He did not agree to have a blood test.

Although the Court would allow a warrantless breath test, they distinguished breath and blood tests. Blood tests are considered more intrusive and therefore may not be demanded by the states without a warrant.

In Pennsylvania it has long been the rule that a person who refuses to submit to a blood test, even when the police do not have a warrant will automatically lose their driving privileges for one year. With the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program available in many counties in Pennsylvania, including Centre, lawyers often advise clients prospectively to take the blood test. When a person takes the blood test even if it shows the presence of illegal amounts of alcohol in the system, the person is often eligible for the ARD Program and the license loss is either thirty or sixty days. If the person refuses the blood test the license loss can be an additional one year.

An exception to agreeing to a blood test would be a case where the driver, while impaired, has seriously injured or killed another person.

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