Supreme Court rules mandatory Breathalyzer tests constitutional

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, June 23, in a 7-1 decision that requiring DUI suspects submit to a Breathalyzer test without warrant does not violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights, reversing a lower court ruling.

The case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, consolidated three separate challenges to local court cases in two states where drunk driving suspects were prosecuted and convicted for refusing to take a Breathalyzer or blood test or for failing a blood test that police officers falsely said was required.

According to senior attorney Derek Andrews of New York-based law firm Anelli Xavier, which specializes in DUI defense law, the Birchfield decision will most likely result in less resistance to Breathalyzer tests in the future and therefore more drunk driving convictions overall.

A significant amount of states already have laws that call for an automatic suspension of a driver’s license for anyone that refuses a breath test, after the suspect has been arrested.

“This country is simply going to have more criminals because the government has chosen to criminalize a refusal to provide (potentially) incriminating evidence to law enforcement,” Andrews wrote in an email to Business Insider.

Last Thursday’s ruling, however, distinguishes between breath and blood tests, holding that the latter requires a warrant because it is considered “significantly more intrusive” than a Breathalyzer.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed that blood tests require a warrant, but objected to the Court “establishing exceptions to the warrant requirement”, and instead called for states to establish laws that discourage drunk driving, but without “the same impact on personal privacy”.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that neither blood or breath tests for DUI suspects should require a warrant.

This is the second Fourth Amendment case the Supreme Court has decided this month, ruling on Monday, June 20, that evidence obtained from a suspect without a relevant warrant may be admissible in criminal court given certain circumstances, such as an outstanding order for arrest.

“The Fourth Amendment is being attacked and our freedoms in this country are being whittled away,” lamented Andrews.

So much for accusations that a Scalia-less Supreme Court would be liberal.


[Business Insider] [] [Photo courtesy]



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