Supreme Court ruling could impact drunken driving arrests in Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - A Supreme Court ruling could have an effect on drivers in the Ozarks.

Right now, if you are pulled over for driving drunk and you do not take a breath test the state can suspend your license.

In these eleven states, it is a crime for you to refuse to take alcohol blood or breath tests.

Thursday’s ruling means that could now happen in Missouri and you could go to jail for not taking a breath test.

It is not illegal for you to refuse to take the breath test in the Ozarks. But there could be a day soon when that changes and that is something emergency room doctors are keeping an eye on.

There is a sound Velvet Shoults knows all too well.

"There's a patient getting ready to hit the door. We're doing set up," Shoults said.

She is the Director of Trauma Services at Mercy and has spent 30 years saving lives.

"You're always going to need chest tubes when you have an injury," Shoults stated.

She said a whopping 30% of patients are in the hospital because of motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol.

"We almost always test blood alcohol because it affects what medicines,” Shoults explained. “It makes a difference."

She is interested to see how a new Supreme Court ruling impacts drivers in the Ozarks.

"Currently the only thing Missouri does is have a separate license suspension action for refusing either breath or blood tests. But this case opens the door now for criminal penalties as well," said attorney Adam Woody.

That does not mean a driver can refuse to take a breath test without side effects.

"Greene County now has a no refusal policy anyway where, if people do refuse breath tests, the police officers will request a search warrant and will take your blood regardless if you refuse it or not," Woody said.

Thursday’s ruling will not impact drivers here.

“Sitting here right now in Missouri, it doesn't necessarily affect Missouri motorists right now,” Woody declared. “What this does is pave the way in the future where it most likely will impact all motorists everywhere."

It is that future that brings a big smile to Shoults' face.

"If no one drank and drove or if everyone wore their seatbelt, there would be a huge diminish in the amount of trauma patients we see," Shoults finished.

Legislators will have to pass a law in order for it to be illegal for you to refuse to take a breath test.

KSPR News will watch for any changes in the next legislative session.