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Could A New Supreme Court Ruling Make Things Easier On Drunk Drivers?

When you hear about the Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) of a drunk driving suspect, you are usually hearing about the results from a breath test. The breath tests are not considered conclusive, which is why actual blood tests are used as undisputed methods for confirming whether or not an offender is drunk. The United States Supreme Court just made a ruling that could make getting that undisputed evidence a lot more difficult for prosecutors.

Learn more about dram shop lawsuits.

Supreme Court Search Warrants Decision

In the field of criminal law, most areas where search warrants are required make sense. But the Supreme Court recently decided that prosecutors must get a search warrant before they can take blood samples from drunk driving suspects. Prosecutors throughout the Pennsylvania area are now starting to think that the federal court system is trying to be too lenient on drunk driving suspects.

It Is All About Timing

The problem with this new ruling is that getting a search warrant at times when most drunk driving arrests take place can be tough. Current DUI laws in Pennsylvania make the blood test a matter of course in putting together a case against a suspect. But now, the entire process will have to stop while a warrant is secured, and that could back up the Pennsylvania court system to an unbearable level.

Most DUI laws are dictated by the state, but now the state of Pennsylvania has to take this Supreme Court ruling into account and develop an answer for this new ruling that would apply to the entire state. As of August 2016, each county prosecutor is being left to decide on their own how they want to respond to the ruling, but all will be anxious to see what the state has to say.

Reducing Drunk Driving In Pennsylvania

According to WalletHub.com, the state of Pennsylvania ranks 48th out of all 50 states in terms of strict DUI laws. In other words, according to the criteria used by WalletHub.com, the state of Pennsylvania has some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country. There have been changes in those laws over the past few years that have made them more imposing to offenders, but more could be done.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the country where drunk driving does not eventually become an automatic felony. Other states make drunk driving an automatic felony after the third arrest, while others go as high as the fifth. Pennsylvania also only gives a maximum five-day sentence after a second offense, where states at the top of the list such as Arizona give out 90-day jail sentences to second-time offenders.

An Interesting Approach For DUI Offenders

In the WalletHub.com list, the state of New Mexico finished tied for 30th in terms of the strictness of its DUI laws. But New Mexico is taking a more direct approach in its attempt to curb drunk driving even more. The state of New Mexico has teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to create a program that shames repeat offenders by posting their names on a Twitter list published by the state.

But the program does not stop at repeat offenders. The state is also allowing the names of judges that MADD considers to be too lenient on drunk driving to be posted as well. While the state indicates that this program is designed to make people aware of a problem, critics say it is just a vehicle used to shame judges trying to do their jobs.

The state of Pennsylvania has been fighting hard to boost its DUI laws for years. With this new ruling by the Supreme Court, Pennsylvania prosecutors say that their jobs just got a lot harder. Should Pennsylvania adopt a sort of shaming program like the one in New Mexico for lenient judges? It may be that the judges are doing the best they can with the laws they have and that making those laws more in favor of drunk driving suspects only makes the situation worse.

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David Petrone
Date Published: July 29, 2022
David Petrone is a personal injury attorney at Justice Guardians.
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