Supreme Court Likely to Radically Alter Breath Tests

Justices seem to side against the US government
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2016 8:33 AM CDT
Supreme Court Likely to Radically Alter Breath Tests
A woman blows into a Breathalyzer in Sioux Falls, SD.   (AP Photo/Jay Pickthorn, File)

Laws in 13 states making it a crime for a driver to refuse an alcohol test might soon change radically, based on how a Supreme Court hearing went down Wednesday. Drivers from Minnesota and North Dakota, arrested for drunk driving after refusing a breath test, argued the test violated their constitutional protection from warrantless searches, per USA Today. The justices seemed swayed. "You're asking for an extraordinary exception here," Justice Anthony Kennedy told lawyers. "You're asking for us to make it a crime to exercise what many people think of as a constitutional right." The justices say current laws mean well, but they question why officers can't get a warrant for a test quickly. Many states have magistrates on call at all hours, and stats show warrants can be acquired in as little as five minutes.

A government lawyer says magistrates aren't always available in remote areas. Other concerns: that delays in administering a test could allow a driver's blood alcohol level to fall, and that drivers might refuse a test even after a warrant is issued to face lesser charges for obstruction, per Fox News. After 70 minutes, "it appeared a majority of justices were lining up against the states," reports USA Today. Some justices note the "minor invasion" of a breath test should perhaps be allowed without a warrant, but not blood and urine tests. A verdict is expected by late June, per NBC News. Meanwhile, the court has ruled Congress did not overstep its authority in a 2012 law allowing feds to seize Iranian assets, meaning US victims of terrorism can now collect $2 billion from Iran's central bank, per Bloomberg. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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