Seattle DUI-Can Police Force You To Take a Blood Test?

Washington State DUI law can be confusing and in some instances, misleading. Most citizens in Washington State know that in the case of a Seattle DUI (or a DUI anywhere in Washington State, for that matter) the usual choice that must be made between taking a breath test or refusing it. In most DUI arrests, the investigation goes no further in terms of collecting evidence. The Seattle DUI case is filed and the prosecutor proceeds either with a breath test or a refusal. The driver has been advised under our Implied Consent Law that there are consequences for taking the breath test and blowing at or over the legal limit, or for refusing the breath test. What the DUI defendant does not know is that if there is a refusal to take the breath test, a Seattle Police DUI Squad officer is likely to telephonically obtain a search warrant compelling the driver to give blood. The driver therefore faces the consequences of refusing the breath test (loss of license and the prosecutor can argue to the jury that the refusal indicates “consciousness of guilt”) while at the same time, the driver is going to be driven to the hospital where a blood sample will be taken pursuant to court order to be used as evidence against him. Moreover, the Implied Consent law states that if the test is refused “no test shall be given.” The same Implied Consent law, however, states that lack of consent to the test does not prevent the officer from seeking a warrant. If a Seattle DUI defendant had been told that blood would be compelled if he refused the DUI breath test, most folks would take the breath test. However, our Implied Consent Law does not require such an advisement and no such advisement is given. The whole matter is now before the Washington State Supreme Court, brilliantly argued by Seattle DUI attorney Ryan Robertson for the defense. Keep an eye out for the decision in Seattle v. Robert St. John, No. 81992-1.

UPDATE 9-10-09: The Supreme Court has ruled that there is no statutory or constitutional bar to the taking of blood pursuant to a search warrant if the DUI suspect has refused to submit to a breath test. See the blog "Refuse a breath test at your peril."