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U.S. Supreme Court issues Opinion on Blood/Breath Refusals

Thursday, June 23, 2016 7:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Barely two months after hearing oral argument, the U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions in several joined blood/breath cases.  Following their decision in Minnesota vs. McNeely, the question remained as to what legal effect the Implied Consent Warnings play in compelling blood and breath testing.  The McNeely case did not involve that issue.   In Birchfield v. North Dakota (blood case) the court held the state may not punish suspects who refuse invasive blood testing.  In Beylund v. North Dakota (blood case) the court remanded to the state supreme court to decide if the taking a blood test under the implied consent warning was not "voluntary" in that it threatened sanctions for refusal--including the crime of Refusal.  Interestingly, the court also left open the possibility that DOL civil sanctions for blood under implied consent survive, independent of the criminal sanctions for refusal. See FN 9.  

In Bernard v. Minnesota, the court held that the less invasive breath testing search is reasonable under the search -incident-to-arrest exception.  This permits the state to demand breath tests and punish suspects who refuse to cooperate--including by the separate crime of refusal.   

Overall, the case is good news for Washington.  We adapted to McNeely quickly and the holding in these consolidated cases is already law here.  Their reasoning might also be helpful to our state supreme court, who are currently considering a similar issue in State v. Baird.  The case is due out soon.

The full case is here: U.S. v. Birchfield (June 23, 2016)  

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