A controversial bill has been proposed in Rhode Island that would require drivers involved in serious or fatal auto accidents to submit to a blood test. Should the driver be unwilling to comply, police would have the authority to restrain the person even if he or she is not under arrest. It is a controversial proposal and is being challenged by the Rhode Island ACLU because it is a potential invasion of privacy that forces persons to submit to a blood test even if not under arrest. It is also problematic because the Fifth Amendment ensures that a person need not incriminate himself, yet forcing the person to hand over potentially incriminating evidence against his will may be a violation of that Constitutional protection.
The broad scope of the bill raises additional concerns. Drivers who were not at fault for an accident may be required to submit to blood and alcohol tests against their wills. The concern is that police, who would otherwise lack probable cause, may arrest a person for drunk or impaired driving, although they were injured through no fault of their own. Even if the driver is not drunk or impaired, being forced to submit to a blood or alcohol test after a serious auto accident can be traumatic and upsetting itself.
The bill is pending, however, in light of another tragic and fatal auto accident that occurred in Rhode Island over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Corey Johnston has been arraigned in the drunk driving killing of Domenic Izzi after Corey was driving the wrong way on Route 95 causing a head-on collision. It is unclear from news reports if Corey Johnston submitted to a chemical test, but he is being charged with drunk driving, death resulting.
Should the proposed bill pass the Rhode Island legislation, police would be able to force a person such as Corey Johnston, to a blood test thereby confirming their physical state at the time of the accident. As tragic accidents like this appear on a regular basis in the paper, public sentiment may push this law or a similar law through the legislation.
My office has a great deal of experience in trying cases against drunk or impaired drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of another who was drunk at the time of the accident, contact my office right away for a free consultation. There is no fee unless we are successful for you.