Missouri v. McNeely and Colorado’s Implied Consent Law

Like most states, Colorado has what is called an implied consent law.  This term is shorthand for a statutory provision that deems all drivers on Colorado highways to have given their consent to a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine, effectively waiving their fourth amendment right to refuse such a test.14730604507_808c687496

Background and Recent Developments

Prior to a recent Supreme Court case these statutes were generally viewed as constitutional under a case known as Schmerber v. California, a case involving a forced blood draw of a DUI suspect.  The United States Supreme Court held that although a search was involved (and a highly invasive one at that), it was justified under the doctrine of exigent circumstances.  The court reasoned that due to the dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream over time (amounting in practice to the destruction of evidence), police may generally force a suspect to submit to a blood draw without a warrant.  This ruling, reflected in the implied consent laws of all 50 states, was the law of the land for decades.

However, the Supreme Court recently revisited this holding in a case entitled Missouri v. McNeely.  With facts almost identical to the Schmerber case, the court ruled that due to recent technological developments and the availability of telephonic warrants at all hours of the day, the dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream no long constituted exigent circumstances for purposes of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.

While the court stopped short of ruling that such a case could never involve exigent circumstances, they shifted the presumption away from not requiring a warrant and towards requiring a warrant in most cases of this type.

Implications for Colorado’s Implied Consent Statute

While implied consent statutes have not yet been the subject to full-fledged constitutional challenges in light of McNeely (and it is unlikely that any such statute will be held facially invalid), the case certainly raises new questions for courts to address moving forward, such as:

  • The validity of automatic license suspensions and other civil penalties for refusing a blood draw;
  • Whether the police must advise suspects as to their right to refuse a chemical test; and
  • What remedies may be available in cases where police fail to provide such admonitions.

Contact your Denver DUI Attorney if Arrested

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you may have defenses available to you of which you are unaware.  That’s why it is always important to get the help of an experienced attorney.  Only a skilled lawyer who understands the nuances of Colorado drunk driving law can fully investigate the facts of your case to formulate the best defense possible under the law.  Contact the experienced DUI defense attorneys at the Tiftickjian Law Firm today for a free consultation.  Our lawyers know DUI law inside and out, and we will work hard to mount the best available defense for you, whether that means challenging the procedures followed by the arresting officer or finding other weaknesses in the state’s case.

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