HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 3,000 pending DUI cases are in jeopardy following a state Supreme Court ruling.
The court ruled that Hawaii drivers pulled over for drunk driving weren't given the chance to properly consent to field sobriety, blood or urine tests.
The ruling means blood, urine or breath evidence collected in about 3,000 pending DUI cases will now be thrown out. It will be up to prosecutors to determine if enough evidence remains in those cases to move forward.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving called the ruling a blow to its efforts to curb DUIs, and said the ruling couldn't have come at a worse time -- right before the holidays.
"(It's) the day before Thanksgiving, but we are not thankful for this opinion," said Carol McNamee, of MADD.
"MADD is trying to save lives and we are trying to deter would be drunk drivers. If they refuse, you are taking away a major piece of evidence."
Under a 2011 state law, it's crime for drivers pulled over for drunk driving to refuse to be tested. The penalty for refusing: Up to 30 days in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Suspects learn about the law when they fill out a consent form at the time of their arrest. The crux of the message: Take a test or face the consequences.
The state Supreme Court said that amounts to coercion, and violates search and seizure laws.
The case stems from a 2011 arrest. Yong Shik Won originally refused to take a sobriety test, but his attorney, Jonathon Burge, said the threat of penalties made his client change his mind.
Burge said he agrees that drunk drivers are a problem in Hawaii.
"But just because it causes a problem, you can't throw out everybody's constitutional rights to take care of that problem."
The police will also have to change its implied consent form. Honolulu police say they are working with the prosecutor's office to comply with the ruling, but HPD refused to provide details on when the form will be changed and how it affects arrests this weekend.