In the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), the United States Supreme Court held that authorities in the state may subject you to criminal penalties for any refusal of a breathalyzer test. On the contrary, the Supreme Court also ruled that state authorities may not penalize you criminally for refusing to submit to a blood test after you have been arrested for a DUI.
Birchfield v. North Dakota was a merge of three cases involving DUI suspects who were subjected to or threatened with criminal penalties for their refusal to take a breath test or a blood test after they were arrested. The court’s reasoning was proclaimed around the principle that, if giving someone a blood test or breath test without content is permissible under the circumstances, then you may be punished by state authorities for refusing to do so.
What Was The Problem?
In the case, Daniel Birchfield was involved in an accident that resulted in the vehicle he was driving landing in a ditch. Birchfield did not agree to submit to a blood sample, but it was a requirement according to the laws in North Dakota. After his refusal, Birchfield was charged with refusing to submit to the chemical test. Birchfield pleaded guilty to refusing to submit to the chemical test. However, Birchfield later appealed and argued that his Fourth Amendment right was violated.
The Supreme Court’s Ruling
While there were several issues involved in this case, one of the main issues revolved around if the police needed a search warrant before acquiring a blood sample or breath sample from a driver who was arrested after being suspected of driving while intoxicated.
During the case, the Supreme Court needed to find a balance between privacy concerns about samples given during a chemical test. The Supreme Court ruled that there is a difference between blood tests and breath tests as it relates to the Fourth Amendment.
Implied Consent Law
In each state, there are Implied Consent Laws that will require drivers who are arrested for DWI to provide a blood sample or a breath sample to determine the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) in their system. What if a driver refuses to provide the sample? In Minnesota, any driver who does not provide a blood sample or a breath sample after a DWI arrest can face a charge under a different offense. That offense is refusing to submit to a chemical test. If one refuses to provide a blood sample or breath sample, he or she can be penalized by a one-year driver’s license suspension in addition to other potential penalties.
How Will This Impact My DWI Case In Minnesota?
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, we have received many questions from people wanting to know the impact this case will have on DWI cases in Minnesota. First, the Birchfield v. North Dakota case will not apply to breath test requests by police officers? The Supreme Court made a ruling that breath tests are not as intrusive as a blood test. A breath test will not provide the same level of information as a blood test. The breath test will provide a driver’s alcohol concentration.
Blood tests will require a greater level of protection from the Fourth Amendment since a needle will be required for a blood sample to be obtained. One blood sample can also reveal other medical information that should be confidential. The key differences in the Birchfield v. North Dakota case were the distinctions between breath samples and blood samples.
It was ruled that a warrant does not need to be obtained if a breath test is going to be given. If there is any refusal of a breath test, the Birchfield v. North Dakota case will not impact your DWI case in Minnesota. On the other hand, a search warrant will need to be presented before the police can draw a blood sample.
If a police officer persuades you into submitting to a blood test by using threats or other actions, and you decide to submit to the test because you were under intense pressure, Birchfield v. North Dakota mandates that the evidence obtained in your blood test can be excluded from your DWI case.
Minnesota Supreme Court Announced Birchfield is Retroactive
The Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016) applies retroactively to final convictions on collateral review. The decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court placed the state in the same corner as other states that ruled that Birchfield is retroactive. What does this mean for previous cases?
Before the Birchfield case, anyone could be convicted of test refusal if he or she did not submit to a blood test. After the Birchfield case, only a person who refused the test supported by a warrant could be prosecuted. A defendant may be entitled to post-conviction relief from a test refusal because he or she has been convicted of an act that is not seen as a criminal offense. After the ruling, it was no longer a crime to refuse to submit to a blood test.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
At Judith Samson Attorney At Law, we follow all developments in laws that may impact our clients’ cases. If you were arrested for a DWI and gave a blood sample, the Birchfield v. North Dakota ruling can have an impact on your sentencing with the potential to have your penalties and punishment reduced. The facts and circumstances of your case will be carefully analyzed to determine if you are entitled to a reduction in your penalties. However, the ruling will not impact your case if a breath sample was used.
The only way to know for certain if the Birchfield case will have an impact on your case is to have your case reviewed by an expert. If you want to find out whether the 2016 ruling can impact your DWI case, contact Judith Samson Attorney At Law for a free legal consultation to discuss your legal options. Call 612-333-8001 or complete our online contact form.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.