U.S. Supreme Court reviewing DUI testing case

A case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court could determine how Alabama handles suspected drunk driving test refusals.

Drivers in Alabama who are suspected of being impaired by alcohol or drugs can be asked to submit to breath tests by law enforcement. According to WTVM, under current Alabama law, drivers who refuse to take such a test can lose their right to drive for a period of 90 days as a civil penalty.

The New York Times indicates that drivers in 13 other states can be charged with crimes for refusing such tests. A case coming before the United States Supreme Court could dramatically change how Alabama and other states handle refusals to participate in testing for suspected drunk or drugged driving.

Three separate cases, one issue

Two drivers in North Dakota and one in Minnesota were arrested when they refused to participate in potential DUI testing.

In North Dakota, the law allows for anyone who refuses a breath test to receive the same penalties as a driver who is convicted of a driving while under the influence charge.

In Minnesota, a driver who refuses a breath test can spend anywhere from three to seven years in custody. This time can be ordered to be served even if the driver is not ultimately convicted of a drunk driving or drugged driving charge.

The three defendants in these two states have challenged their states' laws, asserting that the actions violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment prevents any search or seizure deemed unreasonable. In 2013, a decision was handed down saying that a warrant must be obtained in order to take a blood sample without a driver's consent. However, by making a test refusal a crime, states have been able to circumvent that ruling.

Driving as a privilege, not a right

Those in favor of the criminal charges for test refusals indicate that people are allowed to drive as a privilege, not a right. Additionally, when given the ability to drive, people automatically agree to participate in testing when impaired driving is suspected.

Florida court also reviewing the issue

CBS Miami reports that the same issue will be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. The question at the heart of the matter is essentially whether or not it is appropriate to punish people without a valid warrant. Prosecutors allege that a DUI investigation supersedes the rights given by the Fourth Amendment.

What Alabama drivers should do

Keeping a pulse on what happens to these cases is important. If the ability to criminalize test refusals is upheld, Alabama residents could see changes in their state. Working with an attorney is always recommended for people who have been accused of drunk driving, especially when the laws may be changing or in question.