Every state in America has laws that require individuals to submit to a blood-alcohol concentration testing in cases of suspected drunk driving. In most states, refusal to submit to a blood, breath or urine test will result in license revocation. But around a dozen states have gone so far as to make test refusal a crime in and of itself, including Minnesota and North Dakota.
To many, these implied consent laws seem to violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Individuals suspected of drunk driving are essentially forced to give up Fourth Amendment protections without due process (such as the requirement for police to obtain a warrant).
Laws in Minnesota and North Dakota will soon be under scrutiny from the nation’s highest court. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear three consolidated cases (from Minnesota and North Dakota) that seek to determine whether our implied consent laws are unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court has traditionally upheld Fourth Amendment protections, including the need for a warrant before police can forcibly collect a blood sample in DUI cases. Minnesota and North Dakota laws essentially circumvent that ruling by punishing test refusal as a crime – sometimes one which carries a similar sentence as a DUI conviction.
For critics of these laws, the legal question is a simple one: How can Fourth Amendment protections possibly be upheld when it is a crime to refuse to submit to a warrantless chemical test?
No matter what the Court ultimately decides, the ruling will likely affect tens of thousands of DUI cases each year in Minnesota and North Dakota. In the meantime, anyone facing drunk-driving charges should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.