West Virginia Bill Forces Blood Tests on Arrested Drivers

March 15, 2013

Under legislation debated on Tuesday, West Virginia drivers could have their licenses revoked for refusing to take a blood test after they’re arrested.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed the bill to try to crack down on drugged driving in the state.

The bill allows police officers to test for drugs as well as alcohol after an arrest for driving under the influence.

Driving while under the influence of drugs has always been illegal, but the law did not provide provisions for officers to test for drugs. The bill lays out protocol for testing and also delineates a list of banned substances.

Under the state’s current implied consent law, all drivers, if they are pulled over, must submit to an initial breath test for alcohol. If they are arrested, they must submit to a secondary chemical test, either breath, urine or blood. Drivers can refuse to take a blood test with no punishment, but refusal to take a breath or urine test results in revocation of the driver’s license.

Many delegates were concerned with unintended consequences of the bill and proposed hypothetical scenarios to illustrate that.

Del. Meshea Poore wondered if her grandmother could be arrested for driving while taking her arthritis medicine.

Del. Stephen Skinner was concerned that medical information or DNA could be collected from the blood tests.

The bill also extends the time, from two hours to six hours, that police can hold a suspect before administering the second test.

“Under this proposal, law enforcement can basically look at the individual, make an assertion that you’re high and they can hold you for six hours until you get to the hospital to test you,” Del. Isaac Sponaugle said.

After lengthy debate in the House Judiciary Committee, a vote on the bill was postponed until the next committee meeting.

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