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Supreme Court Questions Constitutionality of Breathalyzer Tests

On Behalf of | May 5, 2016 | DUI/DWI, DUI/DWI |

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court considered the fourth amendment implications of the administration of breathalyzer tests for suspected drunk drivers. While it is true that in all 50 states there are laws which allow a person’s driver’s license to be revoked if they refuse a breathalyzer, some states, along with the federal government, have additional laws. These laws include criminal punishment and even jail terms for a person who refuses to take a breathalyzer test.

Typically, a search requires a warrant under the Constitution. To get around this warrant requirement, many states are enacting laws that make refusing to take the breathalyzer test a crime. One lawyer from North Dakota stated that requiring states to get a warrant for these tests puts them “in a terrible bind”. He defended his position saying that in rural areas, it would take half hour to an hour, and this is not feasible. Two states, North Dakota and Minnesota treat the issue at hand differently than most states:

· The North Dakota Supreme Court decided that by driving, one consents to a breathalyzer, and that one is not forced to take the test, though you will be arrested if you don’t. The state argues that driving is a privilege, not a right, and therefore not subject to the fourth amendment.

· The Minnesota Supreme Court has argued that a breathalyzer test falls under the guise of an “incident to arrest” – a rule that was created to ensure the safety of policemen when a suspect is believed to have a weapon.

There is no uniform agreement on the constitutionality of breathalyzer tests, and the debate is sure to continue. Whether a breathalyzer test is a reasonable search or not is certainly a matter for debate, all the way up to the highest courts. If you are facing DUI charges, a criminal lawyer can help you navigate the legal system.


Feldman, N. (2016, April 21). Even drunk drivers have constitutional rights. Retrieved April 26, 2016, from

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Breathalyzer Case. (2016, April 20). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from

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