Monday, April 05, 2010

DUI and blood draws by force?

Amendment 4Image by Subliminati via Flickr

A few weeks ago the Chicago Tribune reported that Rep. Keith Farnham, D-Elgin, introduced a bill to the Illinois House that authorizes police to use "all reasonable and necessary force" while executing a search warrant. If passed, this provision would apply to, among others, DUI suspects who refuse to submit to a search warrant for a sample of their blood. The current law requires that a person who has been involved in an accident causing serious injury or death must provide a sample of their blood, but it is silent as to the amount of force that can be used to require a suspect to comply. However, the failure to comply with a request for a breath test or blood draw does have ramifications: a refusal will result in an automatic 1-year drivers' license suspension. Of course, even if this law is enacted, it will have little practical effect, as Don Ramsell of our office explains in the article:
Defense attorney Donald Ramsell, who serves on the Illinois State Bar Association's traffic law committee, says the number who refuse is "minuscule." Ramsell says he's handled more than 13,000 DUI cases since 1986. "I have never had a single client in the face of a search warrant who has ever refused."
Nevertheless, the implications of the proposed law are disturbing, since a forced blood draw implicates fundamental privacy rights. Fortunately, as explained in the Chicago Tribune article, the proposed bill is likely unconstitutional:
The Farnham bill, though, is probably unconstitutional. Former Cook County Circuit Judge Daniel Locallo cites a 2005 ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court that a DUI defendant did not have the right to refuse such a test. But the court warned that its ruling "does not give law enforcement officers unbridled authority " use physical force in obtaining blood, urine and breath samples."
Let's hope that the proposed bill never sees the light of day. If, however, it does become law, then subsequent forced blood draws and the arrests resulting therefrom may set the ground work for an interesting and important constitutional challenge addressing one of our most basic rights: the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures.
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