Oregon and Rhode Island DUI Law Updates
By: Mike Stetzer
State legislators are constantly constructing and debating
new DUI bills. The general assumption is that new and stronger DUI laws will protect
public safety more effectively. However, in these efforts to protect us all,
lawmakers sometimes miss the mark and wander into unconstitutional territory. Forced
blood draws to check blood
alcohol content and DUI checkpoint stops are just two examples of DUI laws
that have spawned constitutional challenges.
In protecting the general public, legislators must walk a
fine line. No one would disagree that public safety on the roadways is
important; however, laws that impede on constitutional or other legal rights
and freedoms will always be subject to potential litigation.
Oregon DUI Law
Updates – Good News for DUI Expungment
In Oregon, a bill to allow people falsely accused of DUI to
clear the charges from their records is in the state legislature. State law
currently bars people from having DUI charges expunged from their records, even
if the charges were dropped.
The current law is useful for prosecutors to see if a DUI
suspect has been charged with DUI before, even if the previous charges were
bargained away or dropped. This law seems to presume guilt instead of innocence, and
prevents a not-guilty party from clearing their name. As of now, everyone with a DUI charge looks
guilty to prosecutors.
The new legislation stems from the actions of an allegedly
bad DUI cop who reportedly made at least four DUI arrests of people who were
proven sober. The false DUI arrests led to two lawsuits against the City of
Corvallis. After resigning from the Corvallis Police Department, the officer
moved to Idaho and opened a private investigation business - where ironically
enough, he now helps people fight
The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate. It
specifically bars expungement in cases in which DUI charges were dismissed after
a suspect completes a diversion program. If passed, prosecutors will begin to
see a clearer picture of a DUI suspect’s record, as those who are falsely
arrested will be able to have the charges expunged.
Rhode Island DUI Law
In Rhode Island, legislation is pending that would give the
police the power to request search warrants for DUI suspects. The warrants
would allow forced blood draws and the taking of urine or breath samples for
testing to determine the driver's blood alcohol content.
Under the U.S. Constitution, police officers must have
probable cause to search a DUI suspect. The bill in Rhode Island relies on probable cause. It would allow an
officer with the belief that a driver is under the influence of drugs or
alcohol to petition for a search warrant. The search warrant would force the
DUI suspect to submit to blood alcohol content testing.
One bright note in the bill is that the search warrants
would only be available if an accident resulting in serious injury or death has
occurred. Current state law in Rhode Island does not allow the use of search
warrants to forcibly obtain bodily tissue samples from DUI suspects, regardless
of the circumstances.