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:

BISMARCK– The debate over whether the state needs an ethics commission has been ongoing for years, four times defeated by the legislature. This year, however, concerned citizens turned to the power of the initiated measure, and…

There will be a rocking event on coming this Thursday called Night Bazaar by Folkways. Night Bazaar is an event highlighting the community with a full spectrum of unique experiences, food, music, art and performances. Night Bazaar…

Thursday, August 23, 5-6:30 p.m.Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. NDr. Craig Howe, Director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), will lead an art and poetry workshop in conjunction with the…

On August 14, The Bismarck Tribune reported that “A popular insecticide could be banned for agricultural use.” Popular as it may be I can think of a whole slew of adjectives that would be more appropriate like questionable,…

Well, Mr. President, Have You No Sense Of Decency Sir, At Long Last?We might have another flag debate in this country. We still see the Confederate symbol flying in activities promoted by white supremacists on the streets of…

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…

By Ben Myhre benmyhre35@gmail.com If you are a gardener in the area, you know that this is the time of year when zucchini becomes plentiful. In fact, many have a tough time using all of it. You may see just a small little zucchini…

Woodstock: even people who were born years after the original three-day music festival recognize the name. The event, which took place between August 15th and 18th at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in southern New York and attracted…

Elsie Fisher’s Kayla Day is the lonely but indefatigable middle-school protagonist of first-time feature filmmaker Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” a winning addition to the pantheon of the adolescent cinematic bildungsroman.…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

By Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.comAs I stared out of Guthrie Theater’s Amber room at a bird’s eye of the cityscape and river below, I hardly took in the night lights, my mind was too focused on the art I had just…

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…

When I was first introduced to the traditional spirit of my ancestors, Akvavit (or aquavit), I never thought I’d ever find myself standing next to a giant “Viking” ship while comparing different brands of the “water of…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

Well, after nearly a dozen years of delay, it looks like Billings County is finally going to build a bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora. The county posted a notice in the Federal Register on October…