29th November 2017 | BIll Sand
Driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence (DWI/DUI) is one of the most common criminal charges brought in Minot, Ward County, and across the State of North Dakota.
In 2016, the United States Supreme Court heard two DWI/DUI cases from North Dakota, one from Morton County and one from Bowman County. Driving under the influence cases generally do not receive so much attention, but the high Court saw an opportunity to address a problem in many states’ DWI testing laws. Before 2016, the courts in North Dakota, including the North Dakota Supreme Court, had upheld the law stating that it was a crime (carrying the threat of jail time) to refuse a breath, blood, or urine test of blood alcohol content (BAC) following an arrest for suspected DWI. In Birchfield v. North Dakota, the U.S. Supreme Court found that this law was unconstitutional. As a result, some convictions were overturned, and some drivers could withdraw guilty pleas made under the threat of jail time for refusing the test.
Though this case received a lot of attention last year, the law ultimately did not change very significantly. The Supreme Court allowed the state to maintain most of its DWI/DUI testing laws, known as the “implied consent” law. The essence of the law, both prior to and after the Supreme Court decision in 2016, is that drivers have given their consent to blood alcohol testing by taking advantage of their driving privileges. The Court struck down the possibility of criminal penalties (e.g., jail time) for refusing a BAC test, but the states could continue to impose administrative sanctions for test refusal. What that looks like for most people is an immediate loss of their driver’s license followed by an administrative hearing to determine further consequences. The Supreme Court also allowed the state to continue using blood and urine tests if the state first obtains a warrant, and breath tests are still allowed without a warrant.
The bottom line is that the Supreme Court did reign in the state law to some extent, the principle of implied consent generally still applies and the state can impose immediate consequences on drivers for refusing a BAC test.
Minot introduces some unique issues as well. As noted by Minot Air Force Base Legal Office, the gates of the AFB are essentially 24-hour per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year DWI/DUI checkpoints. Of course, entering an air base involves a drastic reduction in a driver’s civil rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Additionally, a DUI can carry significant consequences beyond the state criminal charges or administrative penalties. Active duty service members should contact the office of Area Defense Counsel first, but may also want to engage civilian defense counsel to assist with state criminal charges or administrative penalties.
Sand Law’s experience DWI/DUI attorneys in Minot always remain current with the development of implied consent law in North Dakota and in the nation’s Supreme Court, and stand ready to defend your rights in case of a DWI arrest or a warrant-less BAC test. In addition to navigating potential criminal penalties, we represent clients throughout the administrative hearing process, including through judicial review of an administrative hearing. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI, it is important to initiate your legal defense promptly. Our offices are conveniently located in Minot to serve the city and all of Ward County. Sand Law, PLLC is one of the state’s premier DWI/DUI defense firms, with extensive experience protecting our clients’ rights throughout criminal proceedings and the administrative hearing process. Contact us today for a consultation if you are facing DWI/DUI or test-refusal charges.