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Refusal charges unconstitutional during drunk driving arrests

When North Dakota police officers suspect that a diver is intoxicated and initiate a traffic stop, they usually request a series of tests. In addition to the well-known Breathalyzer, drivers may be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests or to have their blood or urine tested for the presence of alcohol. In the past, refusing these tests could result in a drunk driving related charge, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling changed everything.

Back in 2013, North Dakota implemented a new law that made it illegal for drivers to refuse a breath, blood or urine test if they were arrested for a DUI. Anyone refusing to submit to this testing was hit with additional charges for refusal. As DUI charges are already quite serious, piling on more allegations can be devastating for defendants.

In 2016, a case arguing against this law went before the Supreme Court. The court ultimately ruled that the law was unconstitutional as it violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. It ruled that testing a driver's blood-alcohol content through breath tests was acceptable and legal as a necessary aspect of searching an individual for an arrest. Blood and urine testing, however, require a search warrant, making it unconstitutional to charge defendants who refuse warrantless requests for testing. Defendants who pleaded guilty to a refusal to test charge can now have this conviction vacated and the charge dismissed.

The time immediately following a drunk driving arrest is confusing. These charges tend to move quickly through North Dakota courts, and defendants may feel that they are quickly losing control of their futures. To minimize the impact of DUI charges and potentially maintain driving privileges, defendants are typically well-advised to seek the knowledgeable guidance of a criminal defense attorney.

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