Many police agencies in Mississippi are adopting a common practice of obtaining warrants for blood when a suspect refuses a breath or other tests. And this is generally done on a case-by-case basis. But the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) took things to a new level this month by establishing a no-refusal checkpoint, as reported here.
Over the recent Labor Day weekend, MHP set up a no-refusal checkpoint in Oxford, MS, home of The University of Mississippi, a.k.a. Ole Miss. “What is a no-refusal checkpoint” you ask? In this case, MHP had a judge either on scene or “on call” to issues warrants to obtain blood samples from drivers who refused to otherwise submit to a breath test. In other words, if a driver was suspected of driving under the influence but refused to submit to a breath test, MHP troopers would notify the judge, who would issue a warrant to obtain a sample of the person’s blood for testing, assuming they found probable cause to do so.
The implications of this trend are numerous. As the news articles notes, however, it appears to be at odds with the spirit and meaning of the 4th Amendment. Until recently, it was a generally recognized principle that a person’s refusal to cooperate with law enforcement was not necessarily considered probable cause that the person had committed the charged crime. And although Mississippi has, like most other states, an implied consent statute, obtaining a warrant for a person’s blood amounts to a forcible seizure of evidence from the person; implied consent merely authorizes the suspension of the person’s driving privileges in the event they do not submit to a breath or other test. So if a judge issues a warrant for a sample of your blood based on your refusal to submit to a breath or other test, there may be a question of constitutionality.