In recent weeks a Hamblen County single car accident caused a local Hamblen County Judge to sign a search warrant which allowed the Tennessee Highway Patrol to take the drivers blood despite the driver's refusal to give the sample. This result comes as no surprise in the wake of the change in Tennessee's implied consent law coupled with Knox County's highly publicized "No Refusal Weekend." Until July 1st of this year Tennessee's Implied Consent law required any person driving a vehicle in Tennessee to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test if an officer had reasonable grounds to believe the driver was under the influence of an intoxicant. However, until July 1 a motorist who desired could refuse to allow blood to be taken. However, such a refusal would violate the implied consent law and such a refusal could result in the driver having his or her driver's license suspended if convicted of the violation. Now under the new version of the law, the decision of whether or not to give blood is taken out of the driver's hands. Once a driver is arrested of suspected DUI, that driver's blood can be obtained through a "court order or search warrant." This is quite the change from just a few months ago when drivers could simply refuse to give blood once they understood the consequences of their refusal. Now once a driver is in custody, officers can obtain a "Blood Draw Warrant" which will force the driver to submit to having a blood sample taken against their will. A neutral magistrate, judge, or judicial commissioner must issue these "Blood Draw Warrants". In order to issue such a warrant the officers will have to show the judge that probable cause exists to believe the suspected DUI offender is under the influence of an intoxicant, and if the magistrate agrees with the officers probable case determination a warrant is issued and the driver is forced to submit to a blood draw. The Constitutionality of these "Blood Draw Warrants" is still up for debate and we will likely see that debate rage on in the media and the courtroom. Until the new law is deemed either constitutional or unconstitutional by the Tennessee Court system and unless a time comes when this law is struck down by our courts, warrants like the one issued in Hamblen County will become more common.
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