"WASHINGTON — A majority of Supreme Court justices cast doubt Wednesday on drunken-driving laws in 13 states that make it a crime for drivers to refuse breath or blood tests sought by police without a warrant.
While many justices acknowledged the laws' good intentions — to crack down on drunken driving, particularly in rural states such as Minnesota and North Dakota that are plagued with the problem — they wondered why police can't get warrants first.
"You're asking for an extraordinary exception here," Justice
Even so, several justices indicated they might be willing to allow the criminal sanction for refusing Breathalyzer tests without warrants, since the intrusion is minimal. Blood or urine tests, they said, would require a warrant under the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
"What is wrong with a Breathalyzer test when it can save lots of lives and is given to those people where there is probable cause ... or at least reasonable suspicion to think they're drunk?" asked
The three cases under review were filed by drivers in Minnesota and North Dakota who were charged with a crime after they refused to take "deep-lung" breath tests. Eleven other states have similar laws: Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
Federal district and appeals court judges upheld the state laws, which the drivers then appealed to the Supreme Court.
In general, the high court has ruled that police cannot search a driver or vehicle after an arrest without getting a warrant, unless it's for their own personal safety or to preserve evidence. In 2013, it ruled that police cannot conduct blood tests for drunken driving without a warrant. Based on that, the challengers in the Minnesota and North Dakota cases said, refusing such tests should not constitute a crime."