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Police must obtain search warrant for OWI blood draws

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Supreme Court ruling has made it harder for police to prove their case against drunk drivers. They must now obtain a search warrant in order to draw blood.

Previously, officers could take a driver in for a blood draw if they refused to take a breathalyzer test.

"Mostly for us, it's an issue of time. The reason we were able to capture blood before is the law recognized that with each minute that passes, more and more of that alcohol, that precious evidence is being absorbed. It is dissipating," said Inspector Edward Bailey of the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office.

Inspector Bailey says officials have met with county judges and the district attorney's office to set up a system to quickly get those warrants signed by judges. "Our target is to be able to do it in under an hour. I'd like to say I can do it in 40 minutes."

The American Civil Liberties Union argued successfully that blood draws without a warrant are unconstitutional. The Wisconsin chapter of the ACLU says the ruling should not let any drunk drivers off the hook.

The ruling does allow for exceptions where blood can be drawn without a warrant, but only on a case by case basis.

"We're going to have strict enforcement of drunk driving laws without sacrificing personal rights and constitutional rights," notes ACLU of Wisconsin director Chris Ahmuty.

Police say this ruling does not affect the state's Implied Consent law. When you sign for your drivers license you agree that if you refuse to take a blood alcohol test, you forfeit your license for at least one year.