High Court To Decide If Drunk Driving Suspects Can Refuse Breath Tests


The U.S. Supreme Court will review Minnesota's implied-consent law, which makes it a crime for a suspected drunken driver to refuse a warrantless breath test, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Since 2002, attorney Jeff Sheridan has argued that the law is unconstitutional. Appellate courts have issued conflicting rulings on whether a warrant should be required to administer a breath, blood or urine test, he said, adding that he believes a DWI shouldn't be treated differently from any other crime. “No matter how the [U.S.] Supreme Court rules, it's going to affect 20,000 DWI tests in Minnesota each year,” said attorney Chuck Ramsay. “And if it doesn't change case law in Minnesota, it may cause 47 states to review their implied-consent laws.” The high court agreed to hear two cases from North Dakota presenting similar issues.

The Minnesota case began in 2012, when William Bernard of Eagan, Mn., was approached by police at a public boat ramp and asked to undergo field sobriety tests. He refused, was arrested and was asked to undergo a breath test. He again said no, which led to felony charges for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The state Court of Appeals upheld the law that criminalizes refusing to take the test, concluding that because police could have obtained a warrant but didn't, Bernard could be charged for refusing to consent to the warrantless search. Critics contend that criminalizing refusal to take a breath test forces individuals to give up their constitutional protections without due process.

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