Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a number of jurisdictions across the country, including some in major metropolitan areas like Chicago, held what is known as a "no refusal weekend." This law enforcement tactic has been implemented cautiously in some jurisdictions on certain dates thought to have particularly high rates of driving under the influence. But, no refusal weekends have been ethically criticized, and anyone picked up for drunk driving has the same right to stage a legal DUI defense.
Just what is a no refusal weekend?
Like other states, Virginia has an implied consent statute that makes it illegal to refuse a BAC chemical test if, based on probable cause, you have been lawfully arrested by a police officer on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. If you refuse to take such a BAC test, you may be subject to certain legal consequences, including the suspension of your driver's license.
Despite the repercussions, many drivers still choose to refuse the BAC test. According to a 2012 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide between 21 and 25 percent of those arrested for drunk driving refuse a BAC test. Many of those who took a BAC test ultimately defeat charges by staging a DUI defense, and many of those who refused the test are nonetheless convicted. But a significant number of drivers believe that refusing the BAC test, although it carries consequences of its own, will help them defeat the more serious DUI offense.
The no refusal weekend is a controversial tool being put into place by law enforcement agencies fed up with BAC test refusals. Normally, once a driver refuses a BAC test, the police must respect that refusal and cannot force a test.
However, while a driver can refuse to take a standard BAC test, the driver cannot legally refuse a search warrant for a blood or breath sample issued by a judge. Even in states that do not permit officers to use physical force to obtain a breath or blood sample, refusal of a BAC test pursuant to a warrant could mean serious contempt charges.
In a no refusal weekend, police contact judges and request a warrant for every DUI suspect who refuses a BAC test. Given the rise of mobile technology, these warrant requests can be made remotely and any warrants that are issued can be rapidly delivered electronically to a smartphone or tablet device.
At least 30 states, including Virginia, have authorized the use of no refusal initiatives. Not all of them actually conduct no refusal campaigns, and among those that do, it is often only for a limited time period during which drinking is thought to be particularly common.
No refusal policies have some vehement critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which says they violate drivers' Fourth Amendment rights and also raise serious questions about medical privacy.
Facing drunk driving charges? Contact a Virginia DUI defense lawyer
Whatever the circumstances of your arrest and BAC testing, if you are facing drunk driving charges, you need a strong legal defense. Talk to a Virginia DUI defense attorney today to explore your legal options.