ACLU Says Challenges to Ohio's No Refusal Law Likely
By: Chris Kramer
The new "No Refusal" DUI law in Ohio has now taken effect, but some say there still will be plenty to debate about it.
Under the new Ohio DUI law , drivers who have had two or more DUI convictions can be forced by authorities to submit to a blood or urine test to determine their blood alcohol content. Previously, the law had required that authorities obtain a search warrant from a judge to test a DUI suspect's blood or urine in situations where no consent was given.
The law applies to people who have been convicted of DUI twice in six years or five times in 20 years. An online database is now used to track DUI offenders with convictions for drinking and driving and related offenses. The new law also increases DUI penalties for repeat offenders.
Civil liberties advocates are speaking out about the new DUI law in Ohio, saying that they believe it is unconstitutional, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Jeffrey Gamso, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said that the part of the law that gives police the authority to act without a search warrant is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and a "complete misunderstanding" of what the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled.
The No Refusal DUI legislation in Ohio was sponsored by state Senator Timothy Grendell. Grendell says that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in 1996 that authorities could compel a driver who is suspected of DUI to give a blood sample.
Gamso argues that the legislation has got it all wrong about the 1966 Supreme Court ruling. He says that in that case, the court said that it would allow taking a blood sample from a driver when police had probable cause and it would be impossible for authorities to get a search warrant in time to test the suspect's blood alcohol content before the alcohol would have disappeared from his or her bloodstream.
According to Gamso, the new Ohio DUI law says that as a general rule authorities do not have to get a search warrant to take a blood or urine sample from a suspect. However, that is not what the Supreme Court said back in 1966. He says that the entire purpose of warrants is to protect people from overreaching by the police. This law sidesteps that constitutional protection.
Grendell insists that there is nothing unconstitutional about the law and says that the 1966 Supreme Court case did not involve an inability to obtain a search warrant. He claims that the Supreme Court ruling says that you do not have to go to extreme measures to protect a repeat criminal and that the provision of the law allowing for blood or urine samples to be taken without a warrant is important.
According to Grendell, repeat DUI offenders are out to scam the system by refusing blood alcohol content testing and the law will put a stop to that.
Of course, Grendell is referring to the fact that blood alcohol content evidence such as breath test readings are often the most powerful evidence against a DUI suspect and assist the prosecutors in getting DUI convictions. For that reason, along with the fact that breath tests can be inaccurate, many DUI suspects refuse to submit to breath tests.
The Ohio No Refusal law requires DUI suspects to have their blood alcohol content measured either voluntarily or by force, giving prosecutors vital evidence to take to trial. While prosecutors like the new law, DUI defense lawyers say that it is too invasive and violates drivers' rights.
The ACLU has no immediate plans to challenge the law, but has not ruled out the possibility. Gamso says that the first challenge to the law will likely come from a DUI defense lawyer representing someone who was forced to submit to blood alcohol testing without a warrant.