Oregon and Rhode Island DUI Law Updates


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 DUI charges.

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 Proposed Updates

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.

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