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Supreme Court will hear challenge to warrantless breath tests


New Jersey residents may be interested in cases that are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases, coming from the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, deal with the question of whether a person who refuses to take a breathalyzer test may be charged with an additional crime for the act of refusal.

Across the country, 13 states allow a person who refuses a blood test when they are suspected of driving while intoxicated to be charged with a crime. At issue is whether additional charges are unconstitutional when the police do not have a warrant. If the Supreme Court rules that a warrant is necessary, then the additional charges may be declared unconstitutional.

In the Minnesota case, the state is arguing that the breath tests were requested after the defendants had already been arrested. They also are arguing that no urine or blood tests were requested. Previously, the Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer cannot search a person or their vehicle in the absence of a warrant. An exception exists if the search is for the officer's safety or is necessary to preserve evidence. In 2013, the high court ruled that officers could not perform blood or urine tests for drunk driving cases without warrants.

The ruling has the potential to change the manner in which drunk driving investigations are carried out by police. When police have probable cause to believe a person is drinking and driving, they are allowed to arrest them without a warrant. If they are required to get warrants in order to conduct breath tests as well as blood or urine tests, they will need to seek out a judge shortly after the stop and arrest. People who have been charged with a DUI may want to seek advice from a criminal defense lawyer.

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