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Nation's highest court grapples with fundamental DUI-related issue

It would certainly be hard for most California motorists -- indeed, even including many drivers who practice law for a living -- to calmly and knowledgeably run through and consider state and federal laws applicable to drinking-related traffic stops before they respond to a police officer's requests or demands.

For starters, of course, any such police/motorist interaction is singular and stressful, and not without a dose of subjectivity exercised by a law enforcement official.

And then there is, of course, a fundamental question focused upon whether a police stop was even justified in the first place. Was there probable cause to pull over a driver? That is, did a police officer have reasonable grounds to suspect that a law was broken or that a motorist was engaging in unlawful activity?

On top of such considerations, there is also this looming concern: Where must the legal line be drawn on demands that a driver submit to invasive testing absent a warrant, with an officer alleging the need to test to preserve evidence?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently took up that question, with the result being a split majority ruling that emphasized a fundamental difference between breath and blood testing, respectively.

Although the former is constitutionally permissible in the absence of a warrant, the court held, that is not the case with a blood draw, which justices stated was more invasive and a greater privacy intrusion.

In fact, of course, broad-based complexity and ambiguity can attach to virtually any DWI/DUI police stop. A motorist with questions or concerns regarding any aspect of detention or police conduct relating to a drinking-related stop can obtain candid guidance and rigorous legal representation from a proven criminal defense attorney.

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