Most drivers have long since gotten used to the idea that a police officer could require a driver to take a breathalyzer test if that driver was suspected of operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol. But breathalyzer test results can sometimes be unreliable, and they’re only able to detect alcohol, not any of the other substances that can impair a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Utah has, for some time, addressed this problem by also drawing a small amount of blood from drivers suspected of OUI. The blood tests offer more conclusive measures of blood alcohol content (BAC) and also allow for the detection of other substances. Despite some controversy in the past, the legality of the tests has been repeatedly upheld, and they’ve proved important in numerous DUI and OUI cases.
As in most states, drivers in Utah have legally given their consent to certain chemical tests under the doctrine of implied consent. Drivers who refuse a test can be subject to an automatic eighteen-month license suspension. Breathalyzers have been in use for decades, but in 2005, Utah expanded enforcement when it began training dozens of state troopers and other officers to do field blood draws. State officials maintain that a warrant is not necessary for these tests, but warrants can be issued if necessary.
In June, after reviewing three cases from Minnesota and South Dakota, the US Supreme Court ruled that drivers could not be criminally punished simply for refusing a blood test. In those cases, the court determined that automatic criminal charges filed by those states against drivers who refused to let the police draw their blood were unconstitutional. But the decision was relatively narrow: It would still be legal to draw blood if a warrant was first obtained, while breathalyzer tests were deemed acceptable without a warrant.
This probably won’t lead to any changes in Utah, however. The penalty for refusing a test isn’t a criminal charge, but only a license suspension. In practice, troopers are often able to quickly get electronic warrants while still on the scene, making a blood draw without a warrant an unusual occurrence.
Utah has generally seen fewer fatalities caused by driving under the influence (DUI) charges than many other states, averaging just over thirty annually from 2005 to 2013. But that rate spiked in 2014, the latest year with available data, when forty-five people died on our state’s roads as a result of DUI crashes. Until that number is reduced to zero, there will continue to be people killed and many others who are injured by drunk or otherwise impaired drivers. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you’re entitled to seek justice and proper restitution from the negligent driver.
When you need help after a serious auto accident, turn to an attorney with experience. At Craig Swapp & Associates, we understand Utah automobile accident law. If the accident that caused you harm was caused by an impaired driver, we’ll do everything we can to gather all available evidence that could strengthen your claim, including the results of any tests administered by law enforcement at the scene of the crash or later.
Call us at 1-800-404-9000 or fill out our contact form at the bottom of this page to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case today. You can also launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website to have some of your questions answered immediately.