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E-warrants and portable blood tests: How could they impact DUIs?

Usually, Kentucky police must follow a specific process if they pull someone over under suspicion of drunk driving. This generally involves questioning the driver and asking them to participate in a field sobriety test. These tests evaluate an individual’s reaction time, balance and vision. 

The point of field sobriety tests is to confirm the police’s suspicion about drunk driving. However, advances in technology could change this process in Kentucky, and take advantage of implied consent laws. In fact, they already have in other states across the country.

First, what is implied consent?

Like most states, Kentucky has an implied consent law. Under this law, anyone who drives on Kentucky roads essentially gives their consent to be subject to chemical tests, such as a blood test, if they are pulled over. If individuals refuse these tests after an arrest, they could face higher consequences.

However, these tests are usually conducted after the DUI arrest, and therefore after the traffic stop.

But some states are adding portable blood tests to the traffic stop

Back in August, PBS News reported that many police in Arizona now conduct blood tests during the traffic stop. This new addition has created some controversies, including:

  • The inability to refuse the test: Even though implied consent laws generally prevent individuals from refusing blood tests, Kentuckians often can refuse to participate in field sobriety tests without penalty. However, if blood tests are a part of the traffic stop, it could essentially eliminate that option for individuals pulled over by police.
  • Jeopardized rights: Many people debate whether this practice violates an individual’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Unhygienic practices: Police officers would be trained to conduct blood draws, but many people are still concerned that portable blood tests could put individuals at risk of infection. 

Additionally, if individuals do not submit to a blood test, police need to obtain a warrant. However, as the PBS News article also reports, police in many states can now obtain e-warrants with a judge’s approval in a matter of minutes.

This could significantly speed up the process of investigating and charging individuals with a DUI, which could place their civil rights at risk in these situations. 

Should Kentuckians worry?

Only around nine states allow blood tests during a DUI traffic stop. Currently, Kentucky is not one of them, but there is a possibility that this practice could spread to other states.

However, Kentucky does have an e-warrant system that allows police to obtain warrants even faster. So, it is critical for individuals to understand the rights they have during a traffic stop so that they can protect their future against the consequences of a potential DUI.