How Can The DWI Refusal Law (Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016)) Impact You?

We have received many questions from people wanting to know how the United States Supreme Court decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016) will impact DWI cases in Minnesota.

We want to start out by stating that the Birchfield v. North Dakota case does not apply to breath test requests by police officers. Why? The Supreme Court ruled that breath tests are not as invasive as blood tests. As a result, if you refused a breath test, the Birchfield v. North Dakota ruling will not have an impact on your Minnesota DWI case.

Case Background Information

Every state has Implied Consent Laws that require any driver arrested for DWI to provide a breath sample or a blood sample to determine the blood alcohol concentration (also known as BAC) in his or her system. What happens if one refuses to provide a sample? It is likely that his or her license will be suspended.

In Minnesota, a driver who refuses to provide a blood sample or a breath sample after being arrested for DWI can also be charged with a different offense, and that is ”refusal to provide a chemical test”.

What is The Problem?

The Supreme Court heard multiple DWI cases from Minnesota and North Dakota to determine if it was necessary for search warrants to be used before taking a blood sample or a breath sample from a DWI suspect. In the Birchfield vs. North Dakota case, Daniel Birchfield was involved in an accident that resulted in his car landing in a ditch in North Dakota.

Birchfield declined to submit to a blood sample, but it was required by North Dakota law. Birchfield was charged with refusing to submit to the chemical test. Birchfield pleaded guilty to refusing to provide the blood sample. However, Birchfield later appealed arguing that the refusal law violated his Fourth Amendment right.

The Ruling By The Supreme Court

One of the main issues concerning this case is if police need a search warrant is needed before obtaining a breath sample or a blood sample from a motorist who was legally arrested on a DWI suspicion. In order to provide an answer to this question, the Supreme Court balanced the concerns of privacy as it relates to blood samples and breath samples against the duty the government has to protect people from drunk drivers.

The determination by the court revealed that there is a difference between breath tests and blood tests for Fourth Amendment purposes. As mentioned earlier, the Court revealed that breath tests are non-invasive because it can be compared to blowing air into a deflated party balloon. A breath test will not provide as much information as the blood sample. The breath test will provide the driver’s alcohol concentration.

On the other hand, blood tests require more protections from the Fourth Amendment since they require someone to use a needle to obtain a blood sample. Blood samples will also emit other types of confidential medical information. The distinctions between blood samples and breath samples made the difference in the cases.

The Court ruled that police do not need to obtain a warrant in order to conduct a breath test because it is not as invasive as a blood sample. However, the ruling was different for blood samples. Since blood samples will draw more information than the driver’s blood alcohol concentration. As a result, the police will need to present a search warrant before drawing a blood sample.

How Can This Impact You?

The Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Birchfield since it was determined that states cannot criminalize a driver suspected of a DWI for refusing to give a blood sample. If you have been arrested for DWI, you should not lose hope. We understand that it can be a challenging and difficult time, but being arrested does not mean you are guilty.

If you believe you were not treated fairly or if you feel you were arrested when you were not intoxicated it is important to know what your rights are.  Contact Anderson Law Firm today at 952-582-2904  or request a free consultation.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.