Under the Indiana implied consent law, you impliedly consent to submit to a portable breath test (PBT) or chemical test by law enforcement when you drive on Indiana roads. In other words, you have impliedly agreed to be tested for intoxication if a law enforcement officer suspects that you are driving under the influence (DUI). But what if the test involved is a blood test to check your blood alcohol content (BAC)? Can you refuse the test? And what happens if you refuse a blood alcohol test? Depending on the circumstances, the consequences can be severe whether or not you consent to a certified chemical test. Learn from an experienced Indiana DUI lawyer what your rights are regarding a DUI blood test.
Your DUI Blood Test: Know Your Rights
It comes as no surprise that Indiana prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating substance. As a result, Indiana law enforcement officers use a variety of investigative techniques to determine whether someone has been operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs. Once an officer has initiated a traffic stop or otherwise detained you, you won’t have access to an Indiana DUI lawyer for advice on whether you should submit to the tests requested. And you may be surprised to learn that law enforcement can, indeed, require you to obtain a DUI blood test in some circumstances.
Knowing your rights is critical to protecting them. Consultation with an experienced Indiana DUI lawyer is the only way to know how your case should be handled. In the meantime, read on to learn when a blood test can be required and what you can do to protect your rights.
BAC Testing in Indiana
An Indiana law enforcement officer with suspicion that a driver may be operating a vehicle under the influence investigates by initiating a traffic stop or otherwise engaging with the driver. The driver need not have been involved in an accident to raise suspicion of operating while intoxicated (OWI). Initially, the officer evaluates conversation with the driver—noting whether the driver has slurred speech or an odor of alcohol or controlled substance—to determine whether to perform BAC testing.
The first test is often the PBT. PBT test results are not admissible in court, and a driver may refuse this test without consequences. However, that all changes if the officer requests the driver submit to a certified chemical test of the driver’s breath or blood.
An officer requesting a certified chemical test must first give the individual Indiana’s implied consent warning:
I have probable cause to believe that you have operated a vehicle while intoxicated. I must now offer you an opportunity to submit to a certified chemical test and inform you that your failure to submit to a chemical test will result in the suspension of your driving privileges for one (1) year. If you have a prior conviction, your driving privileges will be suspended for two (2) years. Will you now take a test?
Significantly, a refusal suspension is not eligible for specialized driving privileges. Additionally, the certified chemical test should occur within three hours of your operation of the vehicle to maintain its evidentiary value.
When Are Blood Alcohol Concentration Tests Administered?
An officer who believes that you have been driving under the influence may ask you to submit to a DUI blood test or another certified chemical test, regardless of whether you submitted to a PBT. You may refuse a certified chemical test, but that may not be the end of the story.
Even if you refuse a DUI blood test, the officer may obtain a search warrant to require you to submit to the test. A search warrant will be issued only if the officer can demonstrate to a judge probable cause that you have operated a vehicle while intoxicated. The officer need not appear personally before a judge to obtain a search warrant—a telephone call and digital transmissions can suffice. Following are some situations in which an officer may seek a search warrant for a DUI blood test or other certified chemical test:
- The officer has probable cause to believe you were operating a vehicle under the influence or you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in serious bodily injury or the death of another
- You refused to submit to a PBT or certified chemical test and the officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drugs
- Based on your PBT, the officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol
A certified chemical test like a DUI blood test is admissible as evidence in court. However, the officer or other authorized personnel must administer the chemical test within three hours of your operation of a vehicle to maintain its evidentiary value.
How Significant Is a Positive DUI Blood Test?
A blood test or other certified chemical test showing that your blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit in Indiana—or that you were under the influence of a controlled substance or drugs—establishes a presumption that you committed the offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. While this presumption is rebuttable, meaning you may offer evidence to contradict it, this is a less advantageous position for your defense.
What Happens If You Refuse a Blood Alcohol Test?
Can the police take your blood without your permission? Generally, the answer is “no.” Even if they have a search warrant, you can refuse, but doing so could be viewed as violating a court order (the search warrant). In other words, if you don’t consent to the search warrant, you may be charged with contempt of court or obstruction of justice. In certain circumstances, search warrants can authorize law enforcement to use reasonable force to obtain the blood sample.
In addition, refusing to submit to testing, whether it is a DUI blood test or a certified breath test, can have other serious consequences.
Driver’s License Suspension
The arresting officer can immediately take the license of a driver who refuses to take a certified chemical test. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will issue a one- to two-year suspension of the license of a driver who unlawfully refuses to take either the portable breath test or another chemical test. The length of the suspension depends on whether you have at least one previous OWI conviction. The suspension generally takes effect after notice of the refusal is submitted to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Additionally, the legal concept of implied consent requires a pre-hearing administrative suspension of a driver’s license for any individual who refuses to submit to a chemical test for intoxication.
Ineligibility for Specialized Driving Privileges
A motorist whose license has been suspended may be able to obtain specialized driving privileges that allow the offender to drive during the suspension period as long as an ignition interlock device is installed in the driver’s vehicle. However, those who refuse to submit to chemical testing are not eligible for these specialized driving privileges during the suspension period.
An OWI offender who refused to submit to chemical testing also is not eligible for reinstatement of driving privileges, even if found not guilty for the offense.
Depending on the severity of the situation, a motorist who refused to take a PBT and/or chemical test at the request of a law enforcement officer can also be charged with a class C infraction or, if the individual has at least one previous OWI conviction, a class A infraction. A class C infraction is punishable by a fine of up to $500, plus court costs, and the maximum fine for a class A infraction is $10,000.
Potential Defenses Regarding Your DUI Blood Test
Whether you agreed to submit to a blood test or your test was the result of a search warrant, the following are possible defenses that could be claimed in some cases:
- The law enforcement officer did not have an articulable suspicion—a reason that could be explained for making the traffic stop that preceded your blood test or other certified chemical test
- The search warrant was not based on probable cause
- The blood test was not performed in accordance with the required protocols for testing
Questions About Your OWI Stop?
Given Indiana’s implied consent law, all Indiana drivers are expected to submit to BAC tests when requested by law enforcement. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, evidence of the refusal is admissible in a criminal case. This could work against you, as it allows the prosecutor to suggest to the judge or jury that you refused the test because you knew you would fail. As a result, it is absolutely critical that you understand your rights before you are the subject of a DUI investigation. If you have already been stopped and investigated for operating under the influence, you must speak with an experienced Indiana DUI lawyer immediately.
Your Indiana DUI lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP has the experience you need in your DUI or OWI case. Whether you’re fighting the results of a DUI blood test, the legality of the traffic stop itself, how your blood test or other certified chemical test was performed, or the consequences of refusing a certified chemical test, our former Fatal Alcohol Crash Team prosecutors can help. To learn more, contact us for a free consultation by calling (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.
Speak with an attorney at Keffer Hirschauer today for more information.