Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that police do not require a warrant to administer a breath alcohol test after an arrest for drunk driving. But they also ruled that police do require a warrant to administer a blood alcohol test.
Three separate defendants, each charged with criminal offenses after failing to submit to blood or breath tests in North Dakota and Minnesota, filed lawsuits against their respective states. The defendants argued that the forced sobriety tests violated their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.
Their cases made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, as a consolidated case called Birchfield v. North Dakota.
Their argument was based on the fact that, typically, before a police officer can invade a person’s privacy, they must first obtain a search warrant from a judge. Before the decision, it was unclear whether forced sobriety tests were an invasion of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield gives us the answer.