In a state just north of Texas, Colorado, an important DWI decision was reached by the Supreme Court. The case, Fitzgerald v. People, centered around the issue of refusing to take a blood or breath test when under investigation or arrest for DWI. The laws surrounding this issue continue to be addressed and defined.
In this case, the Colorado Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether the prosecution can use evidence of a refusal to take a blood or breath test at trial for the DWI. The argument against allowing such behavior is that it penalizes someone for exercising a constitutional right to refuse an unreasonable search and seizure. On the other side is the argument that allowing a person to refuse a test is not a constitutional right, but a statutory one.
Exercising Constitutional Rights
The Colorado court came down against a man convicted of drunk driving. They ruled that refusing a blood test or breath test is not a constitutional right at all. They based their decision on the fact that in Colorado (as in Texas and most other states) there is an implied consent to take a blood or breath test when driving on the roads. Thus, when a person refuses, they wrote, it is not in exercising a constitutional right, but simply refusing to comply with a statute.
The question is whether this type of reasoning will withstand scrutiny at the Supreme Court should it make to their chambers for a decision. Examining one recently decided Supreme Court DWI helps clarify whether the Colorado Supreme Court got this right. In Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court ruled that barring exigent circumstances, the police are required to get a warrant to take a blood sample. Therefore it is clearly a constitutional right to be free from a police seizure of your blood unless a warrant issues.
The Fourth Amendment
All of this is based in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It protects each of us from unreasonable searches and seizures, and requires police in most circumstances to obtain a warrant before searching or seizing anything of ours. This decisions seems to get that rule wrong.
If this case makes it to the actual Supreme Court, it will be interesting to see how it rules. Many times DWI law can be treated differently from other criminal laws because of the perceived public interest in keeping the roads safe and free from drunk driving. But this always must be balanced against taking away or limiting the rights of the people and expanding the ability of the state to prosecute and put people behind bars.
Understanding and Protecting Your Rights
As you can see, it is constant fight with the state to defend and uphold our rights. If you are facing a charge of DWI, you need to know what your rights are, and what you need to do to defend those rights. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm our name says it all. When you contact us, we will give you a free case evaluation, and then defend your rights in court, even if that means going to trial. Contact us today.
(image courtesy of Mason Jones)