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All 50 states have implied consent laws, which state that by having a license drivers agree to alcohol testing in the event of being suspected of DWI. The exact requirements of the laws vary from state to state. In some, implied consent refers only to field sobriety tests, while in others it includes blood, breath, or urine testing. In 11 states, refusing to comply can lead to criminal charges.

In the 2013 case of Missouri v. McNeely, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that states must obtain a warrant before administering a blood test for alcohol, regardless of their implied consent laws. The court ruled that a blood test fell under the Fourth Amendment’s definition of a “search.” The decision also noted that the fact that alcohol is metabolized by the body—thereby giving law enforcement a short window to test a suspect—does not in itself equate to exigent circumstances.

Now, the Minnesota Supreme Court is reviewing that state’s implied consent law. In part, the court is being asked to consider whether individuals can be subject to criminal charges and imprisonment for withholding consent to DWI testing—or in other words, for refusing a search. The defense is arguing that the right to refuse a search is protected under the Constitution and the state cannot make it a crime to invoke a Constitutional right. Instead, the defense claims the state can impose civil penalties for refusing a test, such as revoking the suspect’s driver’s license.

Many law enforcement officials and anti-drunk-driving organizations view implied consent laws as a key tool to prosecuting impaired drivers and keeping the roads safer. But opponents argue that those efforts can’t, and don’t have to, infringe on a suspect’s rights. The Minnesota Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in a few months.

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


  1. I look at it this way, If someone is stupid enough to dirk and drive, and gets caught, sure, hold that driver responsible for his/her actions, and detain him/her for 24 hours. Nothing I know of on the Law Books, says Law Enforcement can’t detain for 24 hours if they suspect a DWI/DUI driver.
    As for the searching, some Law Enforcement agencies do in fact go to far.

    1. I say Americans need to be very careful with these Implied Consent Laws. Because the next thing you know, The States will be claiming States Rights to enter Our Homes, and any other personal belonging if you choose to have a Drivers License…

      Meaning, If you want “The Privilege” of having a Drivers Licence? You’ll have to consent to Law Enforcement’s ability to enter your home without a search warrant when ever they deem necessary.

      This is a Very Slippery slope here… Americans have already given their right NOT to be wire tapped…

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