Will judges in California soon be working round-the-clock issuing warrants for blood alcohol tests for drivers suspected of DUI in Los Angeles? That’s what’s happening in Hawaii, thanks to a ruling last fall from the state’s Supreme Court.
The Hawaii Supreme Court said that police officers could not coerce drivers (by threatening them with jail or loss of license) to submit to a BAC. The ruling said that “the right to be free of warrant-less searches and seizures is a fundamental guarantee of our constitution.”
So unless a driver voluntarily gives consent–which most will not–or unless there is an emergency, jurisdictions in Hawaii that want to use BAC evidence in court now have to get warrants. But Hawaiian law also requires that the police measure blood alcohol within three hours of the alleged offense. The situation has left prosecutors scrambling to find ways to make it easier for judges to issue BAC warrants on short notice.
In Maui County, on Hawaii’s Kauai Island, prosecutors are planning to use search warrants obtained via telephone. According to a news article in The Garden Island News, officers will call up a district court judge and read the sworn oral statement required to obtain the search warrant. The statement, recorded and transcribed, will become part of the court record.
The intent is to have the judge available, via cellphone or landline, at any hour of the day or night. If officers can’t reach a judge, or if they are too busy dealing with the situation to make the call, they must document the reason why they couldn’t request a search warrant before obtaining the BAC reading.
California, like Hawaii before the court ruling, relies on the implied consent section of its Vehicle Code 23612 for the authority obtain BAC samples from suspected DUI drivers. A Supreme Court ruling on warrantless BAC samples, expected sometime later this year, could impact this law in California and many other states.
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