Defense attorneys have argued for years that a breath or blood test constitutes a search and that without a warrant, citizens should have the right to refuse the search without consequence. Washington courts have finally agreed with this argument, and the Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion on the issue in the case of State v. Gauthier.
The court held that a blood test should be considered a search and that, unless presented with a warrant, citizens have the right to refuse such a search. The court also held that the prosecution cannot use the right to refuse against a defendant at trial. The ruling changes the landscape of criminal litigation and not only protects defendants from unreasonable searches and seizures, but also from prejudicial evidence at trial.
The ruling is not limited to blood samples and can apply to many difference scenarios, including refusals to provide DNA swabs, refusals to provide a breath sample, or refusals to submit to any sort of intrusive search without a warrant.
The logic is similar to that regarding a person’s right to remain silent without consequence. Simply put, exercising a constitutional right is not admissible as evidence of guilt.
The case is already making an impact on the common offense of driving under the influence. The ruling prevents the state from using evidence of a DUI refusal as proof of guilt or to infer guilt.