Supreme Court Cases Affecting Your DUI Case

Posted by James Ferguson | Jan 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

It is hard to imagine how impactful U.S. Supreme Court cases can be on your state court DUI case. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has answered tough constitutional questions about intricate aspects of the law affecting court procedure and DUI law. These questions stem from evidentiary rules, the right against unlawful search and seizure, privacy rights, and the right not to incriminate oneself (to name a few). The way these cases end up in the highest court of the land is by way of a constitutional question. A simple DUI case may possess a fact pattern that necessitates an answer as to which evidence is admissible in court. Other seemingly simple DUI cases can start in traffic court, go through the state's highest court, a federal appeals court and end up at SCOTUS. The cases that have been decided are all important because they set precedent and currently dictate the way DUI cases are tried across the country.

Suspended Licenses
In Bell v. Burson, the Court held that a driver's license was not just a privilege, but continued possession was essential in the pursuit of one's livelihood. Therefore, licenses could not be suspended without first allowing the defendant procedural due process, which includes presenting evidence and the opportunity to be heard. Before this holding, there were a few avenues available for defendants to get their license back. It is evident that the Court sees a driver's license as a property right--something that is intrinsic to the well-being of an individual. Therefore, it is unconstitutional to suspend or revoke a license without permitting the defendant to defend him or herself. The Burson holding now requires state courts to allow the defendant to present evidence as to why it would be detrimental to lose his or her license. These proceedings usually end with the court granting conditions including the ability for the offender to drive to and from work.

Unlawful Search and Seizure
In the seminal case of Mapp v. Ohio, the Court held that evidence obtained from an unlawful search and seizure was not admissible in a state court. This rule protects a defendant's Fourth Amendment right and can lead to a case being thrown out. This case also permits the suppression of evidence where the evidence was discovered as a result of an unlawful search or seizure. For example, if a police officer has no reason to believe a defendant was drunk and possessed no probable cause, evidence yielded from a subsequent search will likely receive suppression per Mapp v. Ohio.

Blood Tests
The Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination is an important evidentiary rule protecting defendants during DUI prosecution. In the space of breathalyzer and chemical tests, the question of what triggers the Fifth Amendment can get rather nuanced. In Schmerber v. California, the Court held that it was not a violation of the Fifth amendment for the prosecution to present blood tests as evidence of guilt. In this case, the blood was drawn from the arrested defendant without his or her overt consent during medical treatment after a traffic accident. The Court held that the rule against self-incrimination only applied to oral and written testimony, not physical evidence.

Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Attorney Ferguson is well-versed is DUI defense strategies tailored to your unique case. Attorney Ferguson understands the importance of putting the charge behind you. Call us now for a consultation.

See related blog posts:
Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Mississippi?
Supreme Court: No DUI Blood Draws Without Warrant or Consent

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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