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Published: Tuesday, 6/24/2008

Critics say Ohio DUI bill violates Constitution


COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio is about to give police more leeway than most states to force a blood or urine test on certain people suspected of drunken driving.

The bill, which Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to sign later this week, would apply to people who had been convicted at least twice of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Under current law, authorities must get a warrant from a judge to test blood or urine for alcohol or drugs on people who don't initially give their consent. A few other states require mandatory blood testing but only when there has been a fatal crash or great bodily harm and police have probable cause that a driver is intoxicated.

"Driving in Ohio is a privilege not a right," said state Sen. Timothy Grendell, the Chesterland Republican who sponsored the bill. "We can precondition that privilege on any condition we want that helps keep the other drivers on the road safe."

Civil liberties advocates say the bill is unconstitutional, and they expect to challenge the law once it is enforced.

Requiring a warrant is the way that the judicial system can play its role in checking the power of the state, said Jeffrey Gamso, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

"If it were really hard to get a warrant it would be one thing, but they can get a warrant in a hurry," he said. "There's always a judge on duty."

Grendell said a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision provides a solid legal foundation for his bill. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that authorities could compel a driver whom they had suspected of drunken driving to give a blood sample.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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