We are talking about the constitutionality of implied consent statutes. These laws make it a crime for someone pulled over or arrested for driving while impaired to refuse a blood or urine test — and in some states a breath test. Civil rights advocates say that the law violates the Fourth Amendment guarantee against warrantless searches. Law enforcement and legislators say that the objective of all implied consent laws is to protect the public from the dangers posed by drunk or drugged drives; public safety trumps the rights of an individual suspected of such a serious crime.
In our last post, we reviewed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found implied consent laws did not qualify as exceptions under the exigent circumstances doctrine and, so, the laws are unconstitutional. Sort of. The court said that the need to extract blood or to collect urine without a warrant and without the consent of the suspect should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Minnesota’s own implied consent law has long been a source of contention. The state Supreme Court has heard a number of cases challenging the law, but, so far, the court has merely chipped away at the application of the law. Warrantless breath tests are unconstitutional, but blood and urine tests have not been addressed. A recent Court of Appeals decision may be just what implied consent opponents have been waiting for: a chance to take the law off the books once and for all.
The implied consent law imposes penalties on suspected drunk drivers who refuse to submit to blood, urine or breath tests. Just saying no can get your license revoked.
The appellate court ruled that a warrantless blood draw was an invasion of the driver’s privacy. Breath is one thing, the court said, because a person naturally exhales. Blood, however, “does not naturally and regularly exit the body.”
An appeal will take time, so the law will remain on the books and enforceable.
Minnesota Public Radio, “MN Appeals Court: Cops need warrant for DUI blood test,” Bob Collins, Oct. 13, 2015
CNN, “Supreme Court rules against police in drunk driving case,” Bill Mears, April 17, 2013