Supreme Court rulings affect people every day, but there’s one Supreme Court ruling that was passed down recently that has the potential to impact drunk driving sentences all across the United States.
The case, Birchfield v North Dakota was the consolidation of three drunk driving cases. The men were prosecuted for refusing a blood or breath test, and the court found in a 5-3 decision that while police officers can require a breath test without a warrant, they need a warrant to require a blood test.
The decision was widely publicized, and the biggest concern from anti-drunk driving advocates was that it would give drunk drivers fighting their own drunk driving sentences a way out. Turns out, that’s a valid concern.
A man charged with drunk driving in Perkins County, Nebraska has taken that Supreme Court ruling and asked his own court to take another look at his case. He was pulled over right after Christmas in 2015, and although it was his fourth drunk driving conviction, he stated that the police officers took his blood without his consent.
The blood draw showed that he was driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15, double the legal limit, but he’d like to have the blood evidence suppressed. That might be because drunk driving sentences in Nebraska get really stiff when you’re a repeat offender. Fines can be as high as $25,000, you could spend up to 5 years in prison, and you spend receive a 15 year driver’s license suspension.
What Nebraska doesn’t have are ignition interlock laws. If you’re convicted of a repeat drunk driving offense, you may be allowed to have an ignition interlock installed on your vehicle instead of a lengthy driver’s license suspension, but it’s not required. Maybe if this drunk driver was required to install an ignition interlock after his first offense, he wouldn’t have become a four time offender in Nebraska.
Let’s hope this Supreme Court ruling doesn’t result in the flood gates opening and drunk drivers everywhere stepping up to challenge their own drunk driving sentences.