Birchfield v. North Dakota; Beylund v. North Dakota; and, Bernard v. Minnesota oral arguments were held at the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016. The primary issue in these three cases is whether it violates the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution to criminalize the exercise that amounts to a 4th Amendment right by refusing to submit to a State Administered test of one’s blood, breath, or urine in an Alcohol or Drug DUI case. As the argument developed it became clear that the Supreme Court Justices were more interested in facts than the applicable law. The facts as demonstrated by the Amicus brief from the National College of DUI Defense and the National Association Criminal Defense lawyers are threefold.
First, Warrants are more effective at obtaining blood, breath, and urine test results than criminalizing refusing a breath test. There is evidence in many states that criminalizing refuses had the effect of increasing refusal rates.
Second, Because of the widespread availability of electronic (email and video conference warrants) and telephonic warrants criminalizing DUI refusals is unnecessary.
Third, the threat of criminal incarceration for refusing a DUI blood, breath, or urine test is coercion and violates both the spirit and letter of the 4th Amendment.
The bottom line is that the exercise of a Constitutional right should never be a crime. A decision is expected in the fall. SCOTUSblog did a pretty thorough review of the arguments as well.
-Author: George C. Creal, Jr.