A recent case in Colorado dealt with that state’s implied consent and operating under the influence (OUI) laws, and decided that, no, a driver can’t be too drunk to consent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test.
The case, People v. Simpson, involved a driver, William Paul Simpson, who was pulled over in Colorado. The police officer had noticed that he’d hit the curb four times, turned across a median, and then oversteered into oncoming traffic. When the officer asked Simpson if he’d been drinking, he said that he had. Simpson was unable to get out of his pickup truck without help, so the officer brought him straight to the hospital for medical assistance.
Just like in Maine, Colorado has an implied consent law, which states that anyone who drives on the state’s roads consents in advance to a BAC test if a police officer requests one. The officer requested that Simpson take a blood test at the hospital, and asked him to give his written consent on an official form. Simpson signed it, and then took the test, which revealed that he had a BAC of 0.448%, more than five times the legal limit.
At Simpson’s trial for OUI, he tried to claim that he had been too drunk to consent to the BAC test, and that this meant that the results of it should be thrown away.
The case reached the Colorado Supreme Court, where the judges decided that it didn’t matter how drunk Simpson was at the time of the traffic stop. Because he had been driving on the roads of Colorado, he had already consented, by implication, to a BAC test. This made any further consent that Simpson gave irrelevant – the police officer already had his consent to conduct the BAC test.
While this case stresses the whole point of implied consent laws – they are statements of consent, given beforehand – it leaves open a significant question: If Simpson had initially refused a BAC test during the traffic stop, expressly revoking his consent, could he successfully claim that he was too drunk to then consent to one, later on?
The difference, of course, is crucially important. BAC tests gather evidence of a criminal infraction – drunk driving. This makes them a search that implicates your Fourth Amendment rights. When law enforcement officers don’t have a warrant, they can’t conduct these searches unless they fall within one of the small handful of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Therefore, if police have neither a warrant nor your consent, it makes it far more difficult for them to take a BAC test involving a blood draw.
Whenever law enforcement searches for evidence of a crime, you have rights, even if it might not seem like it during the traffic stop. That’s because, if police infringe on your rights, whatever evidence they find will be excluded during trial. However, it often takes a solid OUI-defense attorney to make this happen.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
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