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:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Policy, not law, has torn more than 2,300 children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Although immigration reform has been a heated topic for decades, the policy of zero tolerance began with a…

Stand-up comedy can certainly be a cutthroat business. Despite the fact that everyone loves to laugh, humor is highly subjective. What splits one person’s sides may offend the other. More than one comic has watched a show (or…

Thursday, June 21, 8 p.m.-11 p.m.Hotel Donaldson, 101 N BroadwayJake Ingamar may be best known as a solo acoustic, indie singer-songwriter/pedal steel player. For the very first time, he’s plugging in and is going full blown…

Just last week Raul and I were driving a rental car on the backroads of Mallorca, a small Mediterranean Island off the coast of Spain. Not gonna lie, my nose may or may not have been pressed hard against the window admiring the…

Ireland Has Sent Pope Francis and The Vatican A Dear John Letter: “It’s Over!”The Irish people and the Vatican have been developing a huge cultural grand canyon for decades over the issues of gender identities,…

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…

Every year the Fargo Moorhead area celebrates its love of food with Restaurant week. Each restaurant involved prepares a special menu to showcase the best of what they have to offer. This year there are seventeen restaurants…

Front Street Taproom has struck up a relation with local record shop, Vinyl Giant. There are two events where turntables are set up and people can play their records. Every Wednesday they host Vinyl Night from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.…

Scaring up early buzz as a premiere in the Midnight section of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is the horror film of the year. Anchored by the vital performance of Toni Collette as grieving,…

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduCome one, come all to the 59th anniversary of the Midwestern Invitational Art Exhibition! This tradition celebrates each year with a preview and awards selection the first night of its showing, with…

Projects have a tendency to take on a life of their own once they’ve reached a certain point. When the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre was established in 1946 to offer other local opportunities for artistic expression outside…

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…

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHow lucky we are in the FM area that we have so many craft breweries, but did you know that we also have two cider houses? Cottonwood Cider House is one of those cider houses and is just a short…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

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…

Last Word

​Keeping FM C.L.E.A.N

by HPR Contributor

By Paul JensenFargo, as the most populous city in the state with 120,000 inhabitants, added nearly 6,000 20-to-34-year-olds in 2015, just over five percent of the total population. Fargo is attracting well-educated young…