Can Police Use Force to Draw a Blood Sample From a DUI Suspect?

More states are authorizing forcible blood draws for motorists suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, regardless of the circumstances of the arrest. Forcible blood draws occur when police hold down a DUI suspect who is unruly or struggling and medical personnel withdraw a blood sample.

In Ohio and Texas, for example, state statutes specifically allow the procedure. However, the Illinois Court of Appeals recently looked at the issue and was unwilling to allow forcible blood draws for all DUI suspects.

In that case, a police officer responded to the scene of an accident and found a woman sitting in her vehicle. She had hit another car. The woman mentioned that she had hit her lip and had a headache. The officer smelled an alcoholic beverage on the woman's breath. An ambulance was called to transport the woman to a local emergency room.

The officer followed the ambulance to the hospital. There, he sought to get a blood sample from the woman. However, she refused. After a commanding officer instructed the officer to obtain a blood sample, a nurse and another emergency department staff member held the woman down while a doctor drew a blood sample. The driver admitted at a trial court hearing that she sought to resist the blood draw.

Illinois Forcible Blood Testing

At issue in the case was whether the officer had authority to forcibly collect a blood sample. The trial court held that the officer did not have authority to use force when collecting the blood sample under Illinois law. The appellate court agreed.

In deciding the case, the appellate court relied heavily on People v. Jones, a 2005 Illinois Supreme Court case . In Jones, the court said that law enforcement did not have the statutory right to use force to extract a blood sample when a defendant refused to cooperate. The court noted there was no practical need for force, because there is no advantage for someone arrested for DUI to refuse a chemical test.

Refusal to submit to a blood, breath or urine test justifies summary suspension of a DUI suspect's driver's license, which is the same - and sometimes stricter - penalty than if the test shows a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

If arrested on suspicion of impaired driving, a first call should be to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even the initial decision of whether or not to submit to a chemical test can have immediate consequences.