U.S. Supreme Court Limits Drunk Driving Test Laws

Police must obtain a search warrant before requiring drivers to submit to blood tests, the court ruled June 23.

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed new limits on state laws that make it a crime for a driver suspected of drunk driving to refuse alcohol tests. Now, police must obtain a search warrant before requiring drivers to take blood alcohol tests, but not breath tests, the high court ruled in a 7-1 case on June 23.

The ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota, No. 14-1468, came in three cases where drivers challenged implied consent laws in Minnesota and North Dakota. The state supreme courts upheld those laws. Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, wrote that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving but not warrantless blood tests, adding that breath tests do not implicate "significant privacy concerns."

"Because the impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great, the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving. Blood tests, however, are significantly more intrusive, and their reasonableness must be judged in light of the availability of the less invasive alternative of a breath test," he wrote.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a separate opinion, said they would have required search warrants for both breath and blood alcohol tests, while Justice Clarence Thomas argued in his opinion that both searches should be held to be constitutional under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • The Top 5 Safety and Technology Trends to Watch

    Get the latest on trends you can expect to hear more about in 2019, including continued growth of mobile safety applications, wearable technology, and smart PPE; autonomous vehicles; pending OSHA recordkeeping rulemaking; and increased adoption of international safety standard, ISO 45001.

  • Analyze Incident Data

    Collect relevant incident data, analyze trends, and generate accurate regulatory reports, including OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 logs, through IndustrySafe’s extensive incident reporting and investigation module.

  • Safety Training 101

    When it comes to safety training, no matter the industry, there are always questions regarding requirements and certifications. We’ve put together a guide on key safety training topics, requirements for certifications, and answers to common training questions.

  • Conduct EHS Inspections and Audits

    Record and manage your organization’s inspection data with IndustrySafe’s Inspections module. IndustrySafe’s pre-built forms and checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January 2019

    January / February 2019


      Production vs. Safety 
      Meeting the Requirements for Emergency Equipment
      The State of Contractor Safety
      The Three Keys to Effective Chemical Management
    View This Issue