Cameron asks U.S. Supreme Court to review ruling on state impaired driving laws

State Supreme Court ruled blood test refusal can't be used as evidence

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron asked the United States Supreme Court to review a decision by the Supreme Court of Kentucky that struck down important parts of Kentucky’s implied-consent laws, which require individuals suspected of impaired driving to submit to a breath or blood test if requested by law enforcement.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky’s decision last spring allows an individual to refuse a blood test and prohibits that refusal from being held against him or her in court. The court ruled it was an unreasonable and warrantless search and seizure that violated the Constitution.

Prosecutors across the Commonwealth have expressed concern with the court’s opinion, noting that the decision creates challenges for impaired-driving prosecutions. Meanwhile, defense attorneys and civil rights advocates praised the decision.

“Prosecutors should be given every reasonable tool to prosecute individuals who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Cameron said Wednesday. “We know that many of Kentucky’s impaired driving offenses involve drugs, and blood testing is essential to hold these offenders accountable.  A case with these stakes deserves consideration by our nation’s highest court.”

In 2020 alone, the Kentucky State Police reported  drugs were involved in 1,873 collisions, resulting in 86 fatalities and 1,086 injuries. In Cameron’s request to the U.S. Supreme Court, he writes that “allowing States to admit a motorist’s refusal of a blood draw serves as a powerful deterrent to impaired driving.”

The petition points out the Supreme Court of Kentucky is the first — and only — appellate court in the nation to rule that refusing a blood draw cannot be admitted in a criminal prosecution under the Fourth Amendment.  Nine other appellate courts have reached a contrary conclusion.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide this spring whether to hear the case.

In Kentucky, defense attorneys said there’s an “implied consent law” where a person driving a vehicle is already assumed and willing to take a blood, urine or breath test. Before the ruling, DUI suspects who refused blood the tests would lose their license.

According to the Associated Press, the ruling stemmed from the case of Jared McCarthy, who was arrested for DUI by the Owensboro Police Department in 2014. The ensuing court battle saw the trial judge decide that “McCarthy’s refusal to take the warrantless blood test could not be used as evidence of guilt, nor could it be used to enhance his sentence.”

While Kentucky’s High Court agreed with that decision, justices did not agree with allowing the prosecution to submit McCarthy’s refusal as evidence to explain to the jury their lack of scientific evidence.

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