SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court has given law-enforcement officers the go-ahead to warn suspected drunken drivers of the consequences of refusing to take breath or blood tests — the possibility of a suspended license and fines.
Officers say that giving such warnings increases the likelihood that a driver suspected of being drunk or high will submit to the tests.
A trial judge in Tillamook County threw out the results of blood and urine tests in a 2008 fatal crash when the driver challenged the warnings, saying they amount to coercion, The Oregonian reported.
The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the warnings about the state’s implied-consent law aren’t coercion. The law says drivers automatically consent to the tests and face suspension and fines if they don’t take them. The law also says the refusal to submit to the tests may be used against the driver in court.
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After the Tillamook County ruling, some police departments had their officers stop mentioning the implied-consent law when they stopped drivers suspected of being impaired. That meant that the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles lost its ability to suspend those drivers’ licenses within 30 days.
As a consequence, drivers accused of driving impaired could keep on driving until they were convicted, said Deena Ryerson, DUI resource prosecutor with the Oregon Department of Justice.
After reading Thursday’s ruling, Ryerson sent email about it to police across Oregon.
“We’ve been waiting for this since 2009,” Ryerson said. “This one is very significant.”