Bernard v. Minnesota

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: December 11, 2015
  • Case #: 14-1470
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court below: 859 N.W.2d 762 (Minn., 2015)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether, without a warrant, a State can make an individual’s refusal to take a chemical test to check for intoxicants a criminal offense?

Petitioner was charged with two counts of first-degree test refusal after refusing to take a breath test following an arrest for suspicion for driving while impaired. Under Minnesota law, he was required to take a chemical test and refusal to take the test was a crime. The district court did not hold the test refusal statute to be unconstitutional but dismissed charges. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Petitioner was subject to probable cause given the facts and the police could have obtained a search warrant due to his breath smelling like alcohol. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed, holding the Minnesota law passes rational basis review. Petitioner’s main argument is that since the breath test is not meant for evidence or to protect officers, it is not a valid reason to use the breathalyzer test. Petitioner further argues that under the search-incident-to-arrest exception, the alcohol test would have no connection to evidence preservation or officer safety. As well, Petitioner argues the test itself is very intrusive, and argues that the search in this manner is a “sweeping warrantless search” that harms the petitioner’s Fourth Amendment right. Finally, Petitioner argues that there is a split in authority that the Court needs to clear up to ensure some uniformity among states in how to deal with tests for alcohol in drivers.

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