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:

CANNON BALL - Joint Terrorism Task Force agents contacted an Indiana activist days after he returned home from Standing Rock’s fight in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged…

The 48th Annual UND Writers Conference, “Citizen,” will take place March 22-24, 2017, at the Memorial Union on UND’s campus in Grand Forks. The Conference will feature authors/artists who contemplate what it means to be a…

Best Bets

​Hand to God

by HPR Staff

March 16-30, 7:30 - 9:30 PMThe Broadway Theatre Garage, 409 Broadway, FargoA dark comedy play about the God-fearing children of Cypress, Texas, who go to a local church and practice their Christian puppet ministry. But when one boy…

In the WNBA, was there ever a team like the 2011 Minnesota Lynx? People argue about it, but we say they’re the best. Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Bronson, Maya Moore, Taj McWilliams-Franklin.The Lynx drew first in…

How can we be so stupid?So here we go again with healthcare costs. Doctors once were paid pigs, chickens, and veggies for delivering babies. But now we have $10 Tylenols, $1,000-a-day pills, $10,000-a-day hospital rooms, $100,000…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

On a cold windy Tuesday night, we wandered into the new downtown establishment Magnolia’s. I was impressed that the new tenant had replaced the garish green exterior of the previous Kitchen Gremlin. A pink and white signage and…

Changes in the presidential administration are always bound to bring out artistic expression, whether supportive or critical. The recently inaugurated Trump administration is no different. It’s safe to say that the 45th President…

Cinema

​2017 Fargo Film Festival

by HPR Contributor

By Kaley Sievert Movies have this magic. An emotional pull that lures audiences into their universe. Filmgoers can get lost in stories painted in dazzling lights, electric colors and robust sounds. They mourn over the hardships of…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts. Recipients of this year’s awards include a wide range of different artists working in a variety of different methods of expression. A…

When I arrived at the practice space for Tin Roof Theatre in the Moorhead Center Mall for an interview last week the place was decked out with set pieces and stage flats, preparations for their upcoming show. Tin Roof founder…

Humor

What is acceptable comedy?

by HPR Contributor

By Bill LucasYou may wonder about the title. Whenever we hear someone’s opinion I think it is important to know a little about them. We all are offended by many things that are due to our experiences in life. We may be able to…

It was right around this time last year that news articles around the world were spreading fear about a looming hop crisis. Supposedly driven by an overwhelming influx of new brewery startups, as well as the American craft beer…

Shopping can be a stressful experience, especially while looking for healthier food items or trying to decide which supplements you need to add to your regimen. It can be mind-boggling for someone stepping onto the path to a…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to you to be free in life, all else being beyond your power; that is to recognize and profess the truth.” – Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within YouThis is…