Tracker Pixel for Entry

Get Tough

by Rob Port | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Say Anything | December 18th, 2015

Photo by Bafometro

Drunk driving law may get overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court

Imagine you stand accused of stealing items from your neighbor and the police want to search your home for evidence of that theft without a warrant. Would we not be outraged if there were a law on the books making you immediately guilty of a crime equivalent to theft for declining a warrantless search?

What good is the 4th amendment if it is illegal to turn down a search for which the police do not have a warrant?

Yet that’s the very situation North Dakota’s legislature created in 2013 in passing a “get tough” drunk driving bill.

They essentially criminalized the exercise of our 4th amendment privacy rights during investigations into inebriated driving.

Now their actions are going to get a review from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Legislature has made it illegal to refuse a warrantless chemical sobriety test ordered by law enforcement. Section 39-20-01 of the North Dakota Century Code, as amended by the 2013 legislature, states that “refusal to take the test directed by the law enforcement officer is a crime punishable in the same manner as driving under the influence.”

You may be under the impression that refusing the chemical test was already a crime before 2013. What really happened before is that the state would take civil action, suspending or revoking driving privileges.

By turning a civil penalty into a criminal penalty - the exact same penalty as the crime for which law enforcement is gathering evidence, no less - the Legislature crossed a line into new legal territory, and they may come to regret it.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now review two cases out of North Dakota challenging the law, as well as a case out of Minnesota challenging that state’s similar statute.

In the North Dakota cases, our state supreme court has stood behind the Legislature..

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem stands behind the law as well, which he lobbied for.

“My office worked with the legislature in crafting laws that made refusing to take a chemical test a crime when there is probable cause to believe the driver is operating under the influence, and the North Dakota Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional,” Stenehjem told me in a statement when I inquired about the high court’s decision to review the law. “Since the laws were enacted, we have seen the number of DUI convictions in the state decrease.”

Even if a decline in drunk driving can be attributed to this law, its implications for our rights - and not just our 4th amendment rights - are disturbing.

Consider our 1st amendment rights, for instance. Certain religions have very strict doctrinal beliefs about the removal of blood from the human body. If someone objects to a blood screening for alcohol or drugs on religious grounds, are we to find them guilty of a DUI for exercising their spirituality?

Or how about the 5th amendment which prohibits “double jeopardy,” or the trying of a person twice for the same crime? Since it is possible to charge a person both with a DUI, and with “a crime punishable in the same manner as” a DUI for refusing a chemical test, is that not double jeopardy? Or trying a person twice over for the same crime?

Further, the 6th amendment guarantees every American the right to “have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” A person who has been arrested, and who is being pressured by law enforcement for assent to a search, might reasonably feel confused and desire consultation with legal counsel before making any decisions which could put them in legal jeopardy.

Could law enforcement deem the delay of a chemical test until a suspect’s lawyer can be contacted as a refusal punishable as a crime?

Drunk drivers are not typically looked upon sympathetically by the public, for perfectly understandable reasons. Yet our constitution guarantees certain clearly defined rights to even the most heinous of criminals.

We all want murders and rapists in jail, but we still acknowledge that police cannot run roughshod over our rights to find and arrest those people. So how than can we countenance a law which makes it explicitly illegal to exercise some of those rights?

Recently in:

FARGO– A legislator, hopeful politicians, and business owners appealed to the governor’s office Monday morning with hopes of an executive order to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Net Neutrality.The…

Last week we talked about my lack of photographic skills and then what the heck am I going to do with all of these bad pictures that I take. Storage options for those pictures continues this week:RAIDAnother storage option is a…

Wednesday, April 25, 9pm-howlingThe Aquarium, 226 Broadway, FargoYou may have heard their sick beats on 95.9 lpfm on Friday's from 5pm-midnight. Now you can dance your pants off in the presence of the minds behind ”The Riverside…

According to Greek mythology Hades is to blame for the Earth’s mournful state of winter. The story involves Persephone the goddess of nature and Hades the god of the underworld in a classic caper of obsession, abduction, and…

Does That Old-Time Religion Signal The End Of Rational Thought?An incident about gender identity in the Maryland Legislature last week magnified a microcosm of what we are going through in the United States about religion in the…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Oysters

by HPR Staff

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comAs a North Dakota native, raw oysters are just not a food staple that I think about. We are about as far from the coasts as we can get and we have a backyard full of tasty local cuisine, like walleye…

Record Store Day is all about music artists and fans celebrating “the culture of the independently owned record store.” A variety of unique and special releases are pressed for Record Store Day and those are only distributed to…

Leveraging whatever name-brand clout it might carry with the target demographic, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” -- the onscreen title for the pre and post-credit sequences -- won’t make the kind of impact previously enjoyed by…

There are so many cool places to be in Austin during the South by Southwest Festival -- like the Flatstock Market, which displays the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The show features posters of varying styles,…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

Calm was the day in late JulyAnd bright was the sun across the skyBut inside his chest the calm had brokenGovernor Sinner had started croakin’.I laughed the first time I read that, and I’m still laughing every time I think…