San Diego DUI Law Center

San Diego DUI criminal defense lawyers at report that over the years, the United States Supreme Court has handed down numerous decisions that have had a tremendous impact on the prosecution of DUI cases.

Blood Tests Used for DUI Conviction
Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966)
The landmark decision in this case allows blood test results to be used as evidence in DUI cases even when taken over the defendant’s objection. In this case, the police officer forced the DUI suspect to submit to the blood test. The court determined that the blood sample drawn by a doctor in a hospital, following the proper procedures, was reasonable. The court ruled that a defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination did not apply to physical evidence, when such evidence came from the individual under medical circumstances. The court also concluded that the taking of blood did not involve the suspect providing communication or testimony, in an oral or written form, which would have been protected under the 5th Amendment.

Hearings Necessary for DUI License Suspension
Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971)
The court ruled that a driver’s license is a possession which may not be taken away without the procedural due process required under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court recognized that a driver’s license is essential to one’s livelihood and a driver’s license may not be taken by the state, such as in the case of a DUI prosecution, without some type of procedural due process. This ruling effectively ensured that a motorist charged with a DUI must receive some type of hearing. This hearing must then allow the individual to challenge the state’s attempt to take away his or her driver’s license for any length of time.

Breath Analysis Used for DUI Conviction
California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479 (1984)
The Supreme Court ruled breath analysis tests are admissible evidence in DUI prosecutions even though samples of the suspect’s breath are not preserved as possible exculpatory evidence.
Officers in this case used a device called an intoxilyzer to determine the blood alcohol concentration of a suspected drunk driver. The breath test required the driver to breathe into the intoxilyzer, thus providing a breath sample. The device then recorded the level of alcohol concentration in a printout, thereby providing a breath analysis. The driver’s breath was removed from the device and not saved. Individuals prosecuted using intoxilyzer results argued that they should have access to any evidence necessary to their defense. They argued that they should be given the opportunity to independently analyze the breath used to determine the blood alcohol concentration. However, the Supreme Court determined that the breath collected from any suspect was unnecessary to their defense. This decision was based on the finding that the intoxilyzer had extremely low error rates and that an individual could challenge the results through other means, such as cross examination of the officer that performed the test.

These cases represent just a part of the many influential decisions related to San Diego California Drunk Driving & DUI law that the Supreme Court has handed down.

Return to San Diego DUI criminal defense lawyers at for more information regarding court decisions influencing drunk driving defense.

If you have been accused of a San Diego DUI, contact San Diego DUI criminal defense lawyers at or fill out the free

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