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Court Decision Not a 'Big Victory for Drunk Drivers'

August 21, 2014, 6:07 PM by Brady Mallory

Court Decision Not a 'Big Victory for Drunk Drivers'
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Law enforcement officers can make you walk the line if you get picked up for drunk driving, but they cannot take blood samples without your permission. A unanimous South Dakota Supreme Court stems from a case last year where a Butte County woman refused to give a blood sample. Sheriff's deputies drew blood anyway.

After considering a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, South Dakota justices ruled that officers cannot do that and need the suspect's consent or a warrant to take blood. For many law enforcement agencies in South Dakota, including Minnehaha County, this will not have a huge impact.

"Don't toast a big victory for drunk drivers, because it wasn't one," Sheriff Mike Milstead, Minnehaha County, said.

The Sheriff's Office and Sioux Falls Police Department have been following this procedure since the Missouri versus McNeely decision -- made last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. Milstead said this will slightly tweak the words an officer says to someone pulled over for drunk driving.

"We knew there would be a decision at some point and time by our Supreme Court," Cpt. Rich Miller, Sioux Falls Police Dept., said.

Miller says a blood sample can be important evidence, but it's not necessary for an arrest. Officers have a number of ways, including field sobriety tests, to put a drunk driver behind bars.

"The actual apprehension Is the same. The detecting, the finding them and going through the steps of making the arrest.  But it does have some paper work and time to the procedure on the back end," Miller said.

Even if a suspect says no, it would not take long to get a search warrant. Milstead and Miller can call a judge at any time -- day or night -- and get the warrant pretty quickly.

"Is it easier if you didn't have to?  Yeah, it might be easier. Might be a little quicker. But, in reality, the courts have ruled that it's not constitutional not to have one, so we're going to get one," Milstead said.

Milstead and Miller agree that despite a small technical change, the mission remains the same.

"People who are drinking and driving and are over the limit are still going to go to jail at the same rate they did before," Milstead said.

KELOLAND News also reached out to the South Dakota Highway Patrol, which declined an on-camera interview. The Department of Public Safety sent us a statement, which said the Highway Patrol will continue to follow this decision, and that a blood sample, "is only one piece of evidence that officers rely on in proceeding with such cases."

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