Court: Refusing to submit to drunk-driving test implies guilt

If you’re arrested for drunk driving and refuse to submit to chemical testing on constitutional grounds, you’re out of luck in Minnesota, the Court of Appeals ruled today.

Ruling in the case of a Lakeville man, the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed his challenge that criminalizing the chemical-test refusal violates a constitutional right to refuse to consent to a warrantless police search. It said Jason Wiseman of Lakeville enjoyed no such constitutional protection. It said Minnesota drivers drive under “implied consent” to have “his or her blood, breath, or urine chemically tested for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol.”

The court said the state “may compel an individual to stand in a lineup or wear particular clothing, or to produce incriminating nontestimonial physical evidence such as a blood sample, handwriting exemplar, or a voice exemplar, all of which require the individual’s cooperation. If an individual refuses to cooperate with such requests, it is not fundamentally unfair or a violation of due process to use the individual’s refusal as evidence of guilt.”

In saying Wiseman’s objection did not involve a “fundamental right,” the court said “impaired drivers pose a severe threat to the health and safety of motorists in Minnesota, and the state has a compelling interest in highway safety that justifies effort to keep impaired drivers off the road.”

Here’s the full opinion.

  • MikeB

    How quaint the notion, the presumption of innocence?

    Horrific crimes are committed in people’s homes. Therefore, the state can inspect your home to protect society at large. My refusal on principle is evidence that I’m hiding something. Fun times.

  • Tyler

    There is a stunningly disturbing trend away from “innocent until proven guilty” in our country.

  • Bob Collins

    Mike, the key here is “probable cause.” Cops don’t need a warrant to come into your home if there’s probable cause to believe a crime has been committed there.

    I would think this would be a conviction that would have been hard to sustain if there weren’t probable cause and evidence already part of the case.

    Failing to stop at a red light, blurry eyes, slurred speech, smell of alcohol provides probable cause. Without any of those things, I doubt failing to submit to a blood test would be a charge that would get very far.

  • bsimon

    Isn’t it the 5th amendment that protects.us from self-incrimination? How does this ruling square with that?

  • MikeB

    Bob, the concept of probable cause is watered down to the point that you can be stopped by police under any pretense, and probable cause can be justified later. Weaving within the lane is grounds for a stop. How do I prove in court that I came to a complete stop?

    Yes, if I fall down outside my vehicle that is probable cause. But refusing an impromptu search is not. Because it happens elsewhere does not make me an offender.

    I live in the NW suburbs, it’s not as much a problem in Maple Grove as it is in other neighborhoods.

  • Suzanne

    Every driver who gets a license to drive in MN agrees to submit to such a test – that is the “implied consent” we give in return for driving privileges. Refusal to submit to the test is a felony. This isn’t new, but the challenge in this case was a decent try to change that.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Drunken drivers kill and maim innocent people.

    The slippery slope argument here is intellectually dishonest and morally questionable.

    More civilized countries treat drunken drivers as they should be treated – as dangerous criminals.

  • Bob Collins

    Sure, probable cause could be misused. But this is the same court that tossed a conviction a week or so ago because he was searched while standing in his yard.

    In terms of refusing a search as probable cause, no one has made any such claim. The probable cause n this case was running a red light, driving erratically, and smelling of booze.

    What part of that doesn’t say “driving drunk?”

    Forget the blood or urine test. Let’s just talk about being asked to walk a straight line in that situation. Do you have a constitutional right to not walk a straight line in that situation without it being held against you? Based on what?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Lest it be believed that I have no compassion for individuals who have an addiction to alcohol or simply exercise poor judgement and choose to risk other people’s lives while under the influence,

    they should be given full opportunity to complete the entire 12 steps program while incarcerated. Perhaps several times.

  • bsimon

    It is interesting how commenters also presume guilt rather than innocence. I thought of this story/ruling while reading another story in the news – Gov Romney’s refusal (thus far) to release additional tax returns. The consensus – from both ends of the partisan spectrum – is that Romney’s refusal is tantamount to admitting that releasing the returns would be more damaging to his campaign than not doing so.

  • MikeB

    This is not about allowing drunk drivers to kill at will. It is about the state’s ability and conduct in how it governs citizens. Having a driver’s license is a necessity for most everyone no matter how many implied consent provisions are included. That a refusal to take a test (there are other legal implications to that) is evidence of guilt is a problem for me.

    Our society has, for good or ill, settled on appropriate levels of punishment for crimes. We live in a car culture, that’s the reason we don’t revoke licenses permanently upon the first offense.

    Jim, it is not dishonest or questionable to push back on the state’s ability to govern its civilians. There is no shortage of laws on the books, prosecutors and police have an overflowing tool box to use while protecting the people.

    Rights are not taken away, they are given away freely.

  • Jim Shapiro

    bsimon-

    What a wonderful analogy : a drunken driver endangering others while intoxicated by alcohol who doesn’t want to submit to a test,

    and a candidate with the high potential of endangering others while intoxicated by the out of touch arrogance that all too often comes with extreme wealth, who doesn’t want to show how much money he made downsizing corporations and outsourcing jobs!

  • MikeB

    Bob, agreed that this plaintiff provided a slam dunk for the police. Runs red light, slurred speech and blurry eyes, license stamped with a no alcohol use restriction while smelling of booze. Not much gray area there.

    But there are folks who actually have only 2 beers while out. Or none. And they may not want to take a test because of a principle. Should they be guilty of a crime on that alone?

  • Jim Shapiro

    MikeB – “it is not dishonest or questionable to push back on the state’s ability to govern its civilians. There is no shortage of laws on the books, prosecutors and police have an overflowing tool box to use while protecting the people.”

    I’m almost the last guy in the world to surrender my freedoms to the State. But I make exceptions when it comes to the health and well being of others.

    For those who want to exercise their libertarian muscles and choose protecting the rights of drunk drivers – who by their actions show that they don’t give a rodent’s rectum for the rights of others,

    might I suggest working to change the draconian and absurd laws restricting the production and use of another potentially intoxicating substance, which not only is much less dangerous, but also has a myriad of productive medicinal and industrial uses.

  • Jeff

    Every time I fly I’m searched without probable cause. Hasn’t this search been considered as constitutional because of risk of someone hijacking an airplane is greater than the risk to our individual rights? If so, isn’t this the same sort of thing? The danger to our society of allowing people to drive drunk is great enough to allow people to be subjected to the test?

  • MikeB

    Jim, agreed in the hypocrisy that glorifies certain chemicals while demonizing others. If we exchanged one for the other law enforcement would have less to do and we’d save a lot of money and a lot of social pain. That’s a good thing.

  • Bob Collins

    // And they may not want to take a test because of a principle. Should they be guilty of a crime on that alone?

    I doubt they could be guilty of a crime on that alone because that would suggest an absence of probable cause.

    On the bigger picture of rights of many vs. rights of few, the question here is whether a fundamental right has been raised. The court said:

    “A law subject to strict scrutiny will be upheld only if the state demonstrates that the law is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

    It cited in that sentence, the case of Dennis Linehan, the convicted sex offender who was almost released in the Carlson adminsitration — he would’ve been the first person to have been incarcerated under the old sexual psychopath law to be released.

    He wasn’t released and in that case — as in the Blodgett case a few years before that — the court basically ruled the Spock way : The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    Everybody’s a big fan of individual rights until the sexual psychopath moves in next door.

    I have freedom of movement in this country. Why do I have to stop at a stop sign?

    But the question that’s really at play here is the one that is hard to fit on bumper stickers — where does one person’s rights end and another’s begin?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob -”… the Spock way : The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    To clarify for those of your readers who were born post humanities requirements: I think Spock probably got the idea from the 19th century Vulcan, John Stuart Mill, who had even greener skin and pointyer ears.

  • Cindy R

    Here is an all purpose cure. Don’t drink and drive. Stay where you are. Take a taxi. Call a friend or family member. Get a hotel room. Your right to drive or your personal rights ends where it meets another person’s car or body. Really. Driving is a not a right, it’s a gift.

  • Gloria

    “they should be given full opportunity to complete the entire 12 steps program while incarcerated. Perhaps several times.”

    and I might add -Dear Jim- they be forced cell mates and sponcees with a fundamentalist Christian who proclaims Bible verses and other like Good-News from sun up till sun down, comparing all daily actions to the 12 steps of Alcholics Anonymous.

    Cunning baffling and powerful that law is….

  • Gloria

    “and a candidate with the high potential of endangering others while intoxicated by the out of touch arrogance that all too often comes with extreme wealth, who doesn’t want to show how much money he made downsizing corporations and outsourcing jobs!”

    Cunning baffling and powerful…

    pass me the greed-alyzer.

  • gloria

    “On the bigger picture of rights of many vs. rights of few, the question here is whether a fundamental right has been raised”

    “Everybody’s a big fan of individual rights until the sexual psychopath moves in next door.”

    Indeed.

    Cunning Baffling and Powerful…

  • gloria

    I have freedom of movement in this country. Why do I have to stop at a stop sign?

    Interesting argument coming from YOU Bob. Just the other day I came upon a stop light (with camera above, most have them), in the early hours of the morning, that was quite long. The green light going the other way wnet into the Don’t Walk stage and so me and the driver abreast of me were assured our patience would soon be rewarded with “Green Light”, only to see that the green light going the other way went back into Walk stage. Me and my fellow driver risked the rights of many for our own selfish will so as to not be tardy four our appointments. Together we ran the red light that couldn’t change.

  • Bob Collins

    // Interesting argument coming from YOU Bob.

    I have no idea what that means. It isn’t an argument. I’m asking a question.

    BTW, I’ve gotten rid of all the non-topic comments if anyone’s looking for them.