Chemical evidence often plays a crucial role in the state’s case against alleged criminals, particularly in cases stemming from allegations of impaired driving. It’s no wonder then that those worried about potential criminal charges, especially driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses, may not want law enforcement officers to test their breath or take their blood after an arrest.
During an impaired driving traffic stop, officers typically ask people to allow a chemical breath test. When a driver refuses a breath test, officers often treat that as a reason to suspect impaired driving. Additionally, that refusal is a violation of the state implied consent law that mandates that anyone driving on public roads allows officers to perform a chemical impairment test if they reasonably suspect someone is under the influence.
While you can choose to violate the implied consent law and refuse a breath test, law enforcement officers can then arrest you and may proceed to try to test your blood to gather chemical evidence of impairment. You need to know that there are circumstances in which officers can take your blood without your consent.
Officers don’t need consent if they have a warrant
To collect a blood sample without someone’s permission, officers have to go to a judge and get a warrant. In order to more successfully prosecute impaired driving cases, judges are often open to signing warrants even on holidays, the weekends and during the middle of the night. Basically, once someone gets arrested for impaired driving, chances are very good the officers can successfully get a warrant to test them for drugs or alcohol.
Officers don’t need consent or a warrant if you aren’t conscious
As awful as it may sound, if police officers show up to a crash or find you unconscious in your vehicle, they can take your blood without your consent or a warrant. The federal Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed this in a 2019 ruling. In the opinion, the judges discussed how a driver’s impairment to the point of unconsciousness is a threat to public safety, allowing officers to treat the situation as an emergency.
Officers can even use force to compel you to give blood, including physically restraining you or using restraints, in order to draw blood, particularly in cases where an alleged drunk driving incident resulted in a crash that caused severe injuries or death.
You can fight charges even after chemical testing
Chemical testing plays an important role in establishing someone’s ability or inability to drive at the time of their arrest. The state of Texas has empowered law enforcement officers through its laws, judicial rulings and policies to aggressively pursue impaired driving offenses.
While blood tests are generally considered more authoritative than breath tests, that doesn’t mean these chemical tests are infallible. Issues with the chain of custody of the sample or potential contamination in the lab could give you a reason to challenge the validity of the test results, potentially excluding them from court proceedings.