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Wisconsin can force blood alcohol tests without warrants


When stopped for a case of suspected drunk driving, a Wisconsin resident may consider his options to refuse to submit to a blood or breath test. Like many other states, Wisconsin penalizes individuals who fail to submit to such tests when asked; however, an individual may hope that he could prove his rights were violated by the law enforcement official's request. In fact, in 2013 the United States Supreme Court heard a case about just this issue and ruled that police cannot compel a suspect to submit to blood testing without a warrant or the suspect's consent.

Recently, however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to review several cases that put this issue directly to the test. The three cases were combined together into a single matter that tested the state's laws on when blood alcohol tests can be compelled. Although the state court found that state officials must meet the 2013 standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, probable cause and exigent circumstances can permit an officer to compel blood alcohol tests.

With regard to probable cause, a police officer must believe that there is a fair probability that evidence of illegal activity will be found if a search is executed. In terms of a drunk driving blood draw, if a police officer sees a person driving erratically and then stops that person only to smell alcohol on his breath, he may be able to later prove that he had probable cause to compel a blood alcohol test. With regard to exigent circumstances, if it is the case that a warrant cannot be procured before the suspect's BAC level would drop below the illegal operating limit, then an officer may compel the blood draw before such changes could occur.

Under these two scenarios, it seems that almost anyone suspected of drunk driving could be subjected to a blood draw against his will. Though officials should get consent or warrants before doing so, some who are facing a drunk driving investigation may find themselves forced to submit to blood alcohol tests.

Drunk driving charges are a serious matter, and any person who faces such charges should understand how to put forth the best possible defense.

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