This week the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a Minnesota DUI case that will further help define the parameters of the 4th Amendment. The case involves a statute in Minnesota which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested by the police. In 2012 police were called to a boat launch where a car was stuck while trying to to take a boat out of a lake. They confronted 3 men. all of which smelled of alcohol but all 3 denied being the driver. One man was in his underwear and was holding the car keys. The man was arrested and taken to the police station. He was asked to take a breathalyzer test and refused. He was charged with refusing to take a breathalyzer test based on a Minnesota statute which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested to take one by a police officer. 12 other states have similar laws. Illinois is not one of those states. It’s not as if Illinois does not punish drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. Illinois imposes an administrative penalty which involves suspension of a driver’s license for a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. The Minnesota law does not require a warrant only a lawful arrest with probable cause to believe that the person was driving the vehicle while intoxicated. The difference between Illinois and Minnesota is that Minnesota imposes a criminal penalty on the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test while Illinois does not.
At the very center of the case is the question about how far can the right to search extend when someone is arrested. In other words, when someone is arrested, does the state’s right to search extend to their blood, breath and urine or does this type of search require a higher level of protection? Was it right to criminalize this defendant’s assertion of his 4th Amendment protections when he refused to blow into a machine at the police station? These are all interesting questions which the United States Supreme will answer soon.
Oral arguments are scheduled for April 30 and a decision should be released this summer.
The case is Bernard v. Minnesota.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in DUI cases. If you have a DUI case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.