New Jersey motorists may be interested in a case set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court announced on Dec. 11 that it would hear the case, which involves the refusal to take a DUI breath test, on Dec. 11.
North Dakota and Minnesota both have similar cases that the Supreme Court has agreed to take up. Both involve state laws in which people who refuse breathalyzers are charged with more crimes. A few states provide for additional crimes for breathalyzer refusals, while more do the same for people who refuse blood tests. In 2013, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that blood and urine tests may not be requested without first obtaining a warrant. In the Minnesota and North Dakota cases, lawyers are arguing that the same standard should apply to breath testing as well. This would mean that people should not face additional criminal charges for refusing them.
The states are arguing that people who are asked to take breath tests are already in custody at the time of the requests. They also argue that no urine or blood tests have been requested. In the past, the Supreme Court has prohibited police from conducting warrantless searches of cars or drivers when the drivers are arrested, unless the search is necessary for the officers’ safety or to preserve evidence.
When an officer stops a vehicle and has reasonable suspicion to believe the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer may ask the driver to perform roadside sobriety tests. Even if the driver refuses the roadside tests, the officer may still use other indicators to obtain probable cause to arrest them. If they are arrested, they will likely be asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. Criminal defense attorneys representing motorists who have been charged with DUI can sometimes challenge the results of breath tests on the basis that the machine was calibrated improperly.