Breath but not blood? Justices mull Minnesota's law on sobriety tests for drivers

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Minnesota stood in the nation's legal spotlight Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the law making it a crime for drunk driving suspects to refuse to submit to breath or blood tests.

Minnesota's law maintains that a driver's consent to be tested for intoxication is implied when that person gets behind the wheel.

Critics say laws allowing officers to test a suspect's breath, blood, or urine without a warrant violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search or seizure.

Arguments before the Supreme Court

Comments and questions from the Supreme Court justices while cases are being argued often provide clues as to how the court is leaning.

Reports from Washington suggest that on Wednesday some justices sounded skeptical about the constitutionality of Minnesota's law (and the 12 others like it around the country).

Justice Anthony Kennedy told lawyers defending the law: "You're asking for us to make it a crime to exercise what many people think of as a constitutional right," USA Today reports.

Some justices wondered why the states don't make getting a warrant standard procedure before administering the tests, the Associated Press says.

https://twitter.com/WCCO/status/722960884537110528

But there were also signs that a middle ground might be forming, under which a blood or urine test would require a warrant but a less invasive breath test would not.

In suggesting that breath tests are not invasive, Justice Stephen Breyer commented that people have to exhale anyway, the Star Tribune reports.

A lawyer whose client is challenging the law called breath tests "a significant intrusion on personal liberty" but was interrupted by Justice Elena Kagan, who said “this is about as uninvasive as a test can be!” the newspaper says.

The Minnesota case

Minnesota's law is being challenged by an Eagan man, William Bernard, Jr., who was arrested in South St. Paul in 2012 after refusing to submit to sobriety testing.

A Minnesota district court threw out the two felony charges against Bernard but they were reinstated by an appeals court and upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Arguments were also presented Wednesday in a similar challenge to North Dakota's law. Lawyers for the Obama administration are supporting the state laws and a deputy Solicitor General was part of Wednesday's arguments.

The Star Tribune reports the cases were discussed in court for more than an hour and a decision is expected within two months.

Next Up

Eric Kendricks

Coller: Do the Vikings have a tough schedule?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 7.54.07 AM

Grand jury indicts 2 with aiding and abetting murder of Minneapolis Realtor

Four people have now been indicted by a grand jury in connection to the 2019 killing of Monique Baugh.

Nelson Cruz

White Sox sweep Twins for first time since 2016

The Twins' offense disappeared in a 4-2 loss on Thursday.

Mike Hughes

Report: Vikings trade Mike Hughes to Kansas City

The Vikings received a 2022 sixth-rounder in exchange for the former first-round pick.

Ambulance hospital emergency

Backup from fatal crash in Stearns County leads to another bad crash

The crash backed up traffic, which led to another crash in which two people were injured.

Gluten free pizza

For The Week: Monster cookies, and a search for the best gluten-free pizza in MN

BMTN food writer Lindsay Guentzel's weekly column aims to make life in the kitchen easier.

Flickr - SIMULIIDAE black fly gnat - D. Sikes

South Twin Cities metro besieged by aggressive gnats

Metropolitan Mosquito Control District has received more than 100 calls in recent days.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater criticizes Panthers' practice habits

The former Vikings quarterback was not a fan of his time in Carolina.

Associate wearing PPE 2

Amazon will give $100 to new hires who are fully vaccinated against COVID

The company is hoping to hire 1,300 people in Minnesota.

ambulance

1 killed, 1 injured after being ejected from 3-wheel motorcycle

The pair was ejected after the motorcycle left the roadway.

Related