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Supreme Court Reviews Minnesota's Implied Consent Law

A Minnesota attorney took an implied consent case to the U.S. Supreme Court and oral arguments were heard yesterday. This is one of a few cases the Supreme Court has accepted that question the constitutionality of implied consent laws – laws which punish drivers suspected of DWI for refusing to take a chemical test. These laws, which exist in 13 states, have been the subject of hot debate for years, with many arguing that it is unconstitutional to force someone to take the tests without a warrant.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 breath tests are administered each year in Minnesota.

This debate has huge implications when it comes to how drivers are handled and penalized for refusing to give their consent. The Supreme Court’s interest in these cases appears to be a sign that the justices want to once and for all clear up the Fourth Amendment argument against unreasonable searches.

Advocates argue that the ability to punish drivers who refuse to take the test is a critical part of keeping drunk drivers off the road, and that it would be unrealistic and far too burdensome to require a warrant every time law enforcement wanted to administer a test. Others argue that constitutional protections cannot be waived just because someone is driving a car, and that the implied consent law is at fundamental odds with protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Attorneys on both sides of the argument are hopeful that the judges will rule in their favor. The judges could potentially make a distinction between breath tests and more invasive blood or urine tests when it comes to the warrant requirement. The high court is expected to rule on the matter some time in the next two months.

For more information, visit Star Tribune online.

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