Requiring search warrants for DWI tests is step back

In a big step backward for making Minnesota roads safer, Stearns County has decided to get a search warrant if a suspected drunk driver refuses to give consent to a blood test.

This comes because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that puts in jeopardy the constitutionality of the state’s “implied consent” advisory. That advisory says in effect that if you drive on public roads, then you are giving your consent that you will abide by the laws, including allowing law enforcement to test you for intoxication.

Time is important in blood alcohol testing because our bodies work to remove alcohol from our bodies as soon as we begin drinking it. The longer drivers who have been drinking can delay the test, the lower their rating is likely to be.

Fortunately, because of technology, getting a search warrant from a judge, even in the dead of night, will take no more than a few minutes because on-call judges will take home a portable fax machine, and authorize the search warrants from their bedside, if need be.

The Minnesota State Patrol previously decided to seek a warrant when a suspected drunk driver causes an injury or death.

Even in these times, when government seems more intrusive than ever, the Supreme Court’s decision still seems like a misstep. The deaths, injuries and broken hearts caused by drunk drivers are well known to all of us. However, that has not stopped the scourge. Anything that looks like it will make it more difficult to get a conviction will encourage more drivers to take a chance and increase the likelihood that some will get off. It will also make our highways more dangerous than they already are.

On the other side, suspects also ought to consider that if they demand a warrant, thus interrupting some judge’s beauty sleep, even though the judge is bound by the Criminal Sentencing Guidelines, they should not expect the judge to be in a good mood when they appear before the bench.