27th February 2020
Blood Tests for DUI Arrests Ruled Unconstitutional
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 driving 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.
North Dakota DUI Law Basics
Every state in the country considers driving under the influence of alcohol to be illegal and a punishable crime. However, there are minor variations on how they punish and convict those that have been arrested for DUI‘s and even the definition of driving under the influence as well. For example, driving under the influence in North Dakota is considered a misdemeanor the first time you are arrested and a fourth or subsequent DUI offense within a 15-year period is a felony. In North Dakota, you can be arrested for DUI when you are a non-commercial driver that is caught driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08% and 0.04% when you are a driving a commercial vehicle. North Dakota has a zero-tolerance law for those under the age of 21 and caught driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.02%.
Blood Alcohol Content and DUI Convictions
A person that is suspected of driving under the influence in the state of North Dakota will typically have their blood alcohol level checked with a breathalyzer since blood tests have been considered unconstitutional. However, breathalyzer tests can potentially get false readings and cause wrongful convictions. It is also worth noting that you don’t even have to blow past the limit of 0.08% alcohol content to be arrested for a DUI. There have been many cases where a person suspected of drunk driving have been arrested on a DUI when they blew under the legal limit but still exhibited behavior considered to be exemplary of inebriation during a sobriety test performed by an officer (which can be legally denied) or through their driving behavior.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE ARRESTED FOR A DUI IN NORTH DAKOTA?
Naturally, we recommend that you trust your common sense and never get behind the wheel when drunk or intoxicated. However, accidents happen, and in case you are arrested for a DUI in North Dakota, make sure to seek legal help immediately. Finding the right attorney who specializes in DUI defense can be critical for the outcome of your case. Here at Sand Law North Dakota, we offer a free consultation to evaluate your situation and come up with a unique approach. Contact us online or call us at 701-609-1510.