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Vermont Supreme Court Holds Refusal to Submit to Blood Test Admissible as Evidence of Guilt

Birchfield v. North Dakota, which was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2016, continues to raise questions in courts throughout the country as to how DUI cases can be prosecuted and what evidence can be admitted against defendants charged with DUI. Recently, in Vermont v. Rajda, the Vermont Supreme Court held that a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test could be introduced at trial as evidence of guilt. Illinois DUI law remains unsettled as to whether a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test can be admitted as evidence of guilt, but as courts throughout the country continue to face this issue, it is likely only a matter of time before it is addressed by the Illinois courts.

In Vermont, defendants in several cases filed motions in limine to suppress evidence of their refusal to submit to blood tests from being introduced at trial. The trial court granted the motions, based on its belief that Birchfield recognized a constitutional right to refuse a blood test, which the court believed superseded the Vermont implied consent law and prohibited the admission of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test into evidence. The state appealed, arguing that Birchfield held that evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test was admissible at trial, and further, that an amendment to Vermont’s implied consent law rendered the constitutional issue moot. On appeal, the court held that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motions in limine, reversing the trial court ruling.

In its analysis, the court noted that the amended Vermont implied consent law stated that a defendant had a right to refuse to submit to evidentiary testing, but evidence of any refusal of a breath test could be introduced as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Defendants interpreted this language as implying that the legislature intended for refusal of breath tests to be permitted into evidence, but not refusal of blood tests. The court disagreed, noting that as the statute did not expressly prohibit admission of a refusal to submit to a blood test, such evidence could be admitted unless it was unconstitutional. Regarding the constitutional issue, the court noted that several other states that addressed the issue found that the Fourth Amendment did not bar evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test, and joined those courts in concluding evidence of refusal to submit to a blood test did not warrant constitutional protection. The court noted that Birchfield only barred the criminalization of a refusal to submit to a blood test, and did not prohibit the prosecution from entering evidence of the refusal. As such, the court held the admission of evidence of a defendant’s refusal to undergo blood testing was permitted.

Illinois is an implied-consent jurisdiction, and all licensed drivers are deemed to consent to chemical testing. While there have been challenges to the Illinois implied consent statute, the appellate courts have not addressed the issue of whether evidence of refusal to submit to testing can be admitted into evidence against a defendant. As this issus continues to arise in courts throughout the country, however, it is likely only a matter of time before is presented to the Illinois courts.

If you are charged with a DUI following a refusal to submit to chemical testing it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled Illinois DUI attorney who can provide you with a thorough defense to the charges against you. Harvatin Law Offices, PC works vigorously to defends individuals charged with DUI throughout Illinois. Contact our office at 217.525.0520, to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Rule on Whether a Suspect’s Refusal to Submit to Testing is Admissible as Evidence of Guilt Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, July 12, 2018.

The Automobile Exception to the 4th Amendment Does Not Permit Warrantless Entry of a Home or Curtilage to Search a Vehicle Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, June 4, 2018.

Illinois Appeals Court Holds Officer Need Not Readvise DUI Defendant of Implied Consent Law Before Blood Test Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, April 2, 2018.


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