DWI ruling: You can refuse a blood test, but not a breath test

Publish date:

Is it unconstitutional for Minnesota to punish drunken driving suspects who refuse to do blood or breath tests?

That was the big question Thursday, and the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision: Yes and no, respectively.

So basically, it's within your rights to decline a blood test. But if you refuse the breath test, you could be in some trouble.

This has been a topic of interest for some time, now.

Last year, the Supreme Court announced it'd examine the "implied consent" laws in Minnesota and North Dakota that make it a crime for people to refuse blood, breath and urine tests.

Implied consent means when a driver gets behind the wheel, they're automatically saying they're willing to get tested for intoxication – the consent to the testing is implied.

But some people argued that law violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from "unreasonable searches and seizures."

That apparently extends to blood tests, but not the breath tests.

Justice Samuel Alito told the Atlantic it's important to have some sort of testing for intoxicated driving.

He went on to explain the decision, saying "breath tests are significantly less intrusive than blood tests," according to USA Today.

So now a warrant will be required in order for law enforcement officials to require a blood test.

Drivers in all states can have their licenses revoked if they refuse drunken driving tests, ABC New says. However, this ruling affects the 11 states that have laws for additional criminal penalties.

The Minnesota case

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

He was arrested at a public boat ramp after witnesses said he was the driver of a truck that had gotten stuck while trying to pull a boat out of the water. He was charged after he refused to submit to the tests.

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.

Following the ruling, the Star Tribune says Bernard's case will go back to trial in Dakota County.

Next Up