22nd March 2017 | Sand Law, PLLC
In a June 23, 2016 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that a North Dakota law that imposes criminal penalties for failing to take a blood test in a drunk diving case violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The opinion in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016) requires that law enforcement obtain a warrant before requiring a person suspected of drunk driving to submit to a blood test.
The case involved one Danny Birchfield who refused to take a blood test after a DUI stop. He was convicted for refusing the test. In reversing his conviction, the Court reasoned that blood tests are “significantly more intrusive” than breath tests. Blood tests require the piercing of the driver’s skin to obtain a sample and the extraction of a portion of the subject’s body. Blood samples also provide law enforcement with more information about a person that just the person’s blood alcohol content. Moreover, the blood sample, and its information, can be preserved.
Testing a suspected drunk driver for a blood alcohol content is a search. The effect of the Birchfield decision is to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before a blood test can be administered.