One of several new laws taking effect on January 1, 2013 is AB 2020. The new bill, written by Assemblyman Richard Pan, would require motorist suspected of driving under the influence of drugs to submit to a blood test instead of having the option of submitting to either a blood test or a urine test.
Among the supporters is Scott Thorpe, Chief Executive Officer of the California District Attorneys Association, who said of the bill, “Compared to blood testing, the urine test is an unreliable measure of drug intoxication. AB 2020 will help ensure that persons who drive under the influence of drugs are punished while protecting innocent drivers from conviction based on an inaccurate test.”
Another of Pan’s arguments in support of the bill is that, because offenders are aware of the unreliability of urine tests, they will opt for it instead of a blood test and take their case to trial with a better chance of winning. Therefore, AB 2020 will reduce the already congested courts.
The United States Supreme Court will soon be deciding if law enforcement can forcibly withdraw blood from a DUI suspect without having to wait for a search warrant. Although this issue and AB 2020 fall in slightly different contexts, one very similar issue lies at the heart of each; the right to privacy in our bodies.
As was the argument against forcible blood withdrawal before obtaining a search warrant, the search into the body of an individual is highly intrusive and should be subject to the highest of degree of Fourth Amendment scrutiny. Simply put, there needs to be a special justification for requiring a blood withdrawal, especially when a lesser intrusive means of search (urine test) exists. Here there isn’t.
In fact, according to the California Public Defenders Association, “Both scientific literature and several published court decisions have repeatedly and uniformly held that properly conducted and timely urine tests can produce forensically reliable measurement of virtually all drugs in a test subject system.”
The California Public Defenders Association also mirrored my argument in stating, “Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has consistently held that blood, breath, or urine tests are searches, and that invasive searches of the interior of the body require special justification and a balancing of need against the medical risk and invasiveness involved in sticking a needle into someone’s vein.”
The law was, nonetheless, passed and will take effect on January 1, 2013.