Do the police have a right to draw blood from a person they suspect of DUI? Or does that person have a right to refuse that kind of search without fear of legal ramifications? These are the kind of questions that were asked earlier this week by attorneys in front of the state’s Supreme Court.
Like most other states in the country, Oregon has “implied consent” laws. When you are a licensed driver it is “implied” that you “consent” to any blood alcohol tests, whether blood or breath, which may be performed by legal officials. Under this “implied consent”, if you refuse the tests, you can potentially lose your license.
Attorney John Kroger argued the position that no search warrant should be necessary for blood draws and the law should remain as-is. On the other hand, Peter Gartlan, head of the Office of Public Defense Services, defends the position that a search warrant should be required to ensure the rights of the people are protected, as the Constitution states they should be.
Gartlan argues an implied consent blood draw is an unreasonable search. Truthfully, if probable cause exists for the search, why shouldn’t the police be able to obtain a warrant? Kroger pointed out that the time it would take to obtain a warrant could hinder the state’s ability to get positive blood tests, simply due to the fact that blood alcohol content decreases with time.
As Justice Michael Gillete states in this article from The Statesman Journal, “Our Constitution often puts government at a significant disadvantage. That’s what it’s there for.”
His statement couldn’t be more on target. The Constitution is there to protect our rights. This can be inconvenient for people who represent the interests of the government, but necessary to maintain a fair system rather than a police-state.