Supreme Court delivers mixed ruling on warrantless tests

The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a mixed ruling on warrantless tests for alcohol.

The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a mixed ruling on laws relating to warrantless tests for alcohol in Minnesota and other states. According to Minnesota Public Radio, while the court ruled that some warrantless alcohol-related tests are constitutional, others are not. The ruling has a significant impact on the rights of individuals who are charged with impaired driving or who refuse to submit to a breath or blood test for alcohol, especially in Minnesota where such refusals can result in criminal penalties. While the ruling does allow for many warrantless tests to continue, it does provide some protections for those who refuse to submit to blood-alcohol tests.

Implied consent laws

Minnesota, along with many other states, has implied consent laws pertaining to alcohol tests. Implied consent essentially means that motorists consent to an alcohol test when they drive a motor vehicle. As the Twin Cities Pioneer Press points out, all states have laws in place that allow for a driver's licence to be revoked if he or she refuses an alcohol test. However, only 11 states, Minnesota among them, impose criminal penalties for such a refusal. In fact, in Minnesota refusing to submit to an alcohol test can sometimes result in more severe criminal penalties than an actual conviction for DUI.

However, even with implied consent laws, issues still arise over whether police should obtain a warrant to administer an alcohol test. Those who challenge implied consent laws argue that a warrantless alcohol test amounts to a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals against warrantless search and seizure.

Supreme Court ruling

In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a mixed verdict on warrantless alcohol testing. Essentially, the court upheld Minnesota's laws that criminalize the refusal of a breath test, even when such a test was administered without a warrant.

However, in ruling on a related North Dakota case, the Supreme Court decided that an alcohol test that requires a blood withdrawal does require that police obtain a warrant before administering such a test. Essentially, the ruling means that warrantless tests are permissible in terms of breath tests, but not in terms of blood tests. The court has not yet ruled on whether urine tests for alcohol should also require a warrant, an issue that is currently being considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

DUI defense

The above ruling shows how laws continue to crack down on those who have been accused of DUI or a similar offense. While the ruling offers some protections for individuals' constitutional rights, it also permits police to gather warrantless evidence in many cases. As a result of the changing nature of DUI laws in Minnesota and elsewhere, it is imperative that those who have been accused of an impaired driving offense get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help fight for the rights of the accused and guide them through what is often a difficult and frightening experience.