On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court, will hear the case of Bernard v. Minnesota, in which the man in question, William Bernard claims that the law in Minnesota that makes it a crime to refuse to take a chemical sobriety test — even if there’s no search warrant — violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from unlawful search and seizure, reported the MinnPost.
That law has been on Minnesota’s books for 23 years. In considering whether to uphold it or strike it down, the high court could significantly impact roadside law enforcement procedure nationwide, and potentially set an important precedent about how broadly — or narrowly — Fourth Amendment protection may be cast.
At the center of Bernard’s case is a civil liberties defense: His team argues that a ruling in the state’s favor will further narrow the Fourth Amendment, favoring law enforcement at the expense of individuals.
In its petition, Bernard’s counsel argues that “a person’s body is entitled to the highest level of protection under the Fourth Amendment, not the lowest,” and disputes the state’s interpretation of post-arrest lawful searches as inclusive of breath, blood, or urine samples.
In a friend of the court brief filed in support of Bernard, the American Civil Liberties Union outlines the essence of the civil liberties defense. It argues that the Minnesota statute doesn’t criminalize drunk driving, but criminalizes “the assertion of a constitutional right.” Fundamentally, the ACLU argues, the government cannot make it a crime for an individual to assert protection under the Fourth Amendment.
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