When a police officer suspects someone of DUI in Los Angeles, the officer will usually ask the driver to take a breathalyzer test. Under California Vehicle Code 23612, a driver who refuses could face fines, mandatory jail time and loss of license for a year if the court convicts him/her of DUI.
A case now before the Supreme Court of the United States could force California and 11 other states to change such laws. Judging from the questions posed by the Justices during oral arguments on April 20th, the court appeals skeptical about states’ contentions that public safety issues should outweigh Fourth Amendment concerns.
Both Minnesota and North Dakota have laws similar to California’s “implied consent” statute, making it a crime to refuse chemical testing when officers suspect DUI. The Supreme Court consolidated appeals in three separate cases–one from Minnesota and two from North Dakota–into one case, Birchfield v. North Dakota. The defendants in these cases either served time for refusing a breathalyzer or felt they were pressured into submitting to one, leading to convictions on DUI charges.
Lawyers for the three defendants argued that penalizing drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test amounts to unreasonable search and seizure, prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. The states said that, by driving on public roads, the defendants gave their implied consent to a breathalyzer test. They argued that the public good—keeping DUI drivers off the road—should outweigh the rights of the individual drivers.
Both sides have some powerful allies. Attorneys general in 18 states, the Solicitor General of the United States and the National Districts Attorneys Association filed briefs supporting North Dakota’s and Minnesota’s laws. The defendants have the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union on their side.
The Supreme Court ruling will come before the Court adjourns in June.
A knowledgeable Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer with the Kraut Law Group can help you and your family deal with your complicated and confusing criminal charges. Call us now to get the help you deserve.