(LEX 18) — Kentucky prosecutors want help from the General Assembly when it comes to DUI cases.
Earlier this year, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that people suspected of a DUI have the right to refuse a blood test and that refusal cannot be held against them in court. That decision has presented a problem for prosecutors.
"The McCarthy case holds that going forward, prosecutors are now on notice that a DUI arrestee has a constitutional right to refuse a blood test," explained Woodford County Attorney Alan George earlier this month. "And his or her right to refuse to submit to a blood test cannot be testified to by the arresting officer. So, the refusal can no longer be introduced as evidence, nor can it even be commented on by a prosecutor."
George told lawmakers that this makes DUI convictions difficult.
"When a fellow prosecutor recently asked a juror - on a panel who had returned a not-guilty verdict - what could've been done differently in prosecuting the case, the juror simply responded: no test, no conviction," said George.
But can't police just get a search warrant to force the blood test? Current Kentucky law allows that only if the driver has caused injury or death.
So, prosecutors are asking lawmakers to get rid of that injury or death requirement. That would allow police to get a search warrant for a blood test if a suspected DUI driver refused one.
"They can do it the easy way or the hard way," said George.
George said this change is needed in Kentucky.
"In 2020, 43% of the 16,749 DUI arrests in Kentucky involved only drugs. Another 11% involved a combination of drugs and alcohol," said George. "So, drugs were a factor, at least in part, in 54% of Kentucky's impaired driving cases."
"There were 173 deaths in the Commonwealth resulting from DUI collisions in 2020 and 80 of those fatalities resulted from a DUI drug-related case, he added. "Those are powerful, sobering numbers."