Devon Beeny

Document Type

Supreme Court Commentaries

Publication Date



Fourth Amendment, Unreasonable Searches, Blood Alcohol Content Tests

Subject Category

Constitutional Law | Supreme Court of the United States


Birchfield v. North Dakota involved the ability of legislatures to criminalize a driver’s refusal to submit to a chemical test after a law enforcement officer arrested the individual for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The driver’s argued this criminalized their constitutional right to refuse a warrantless search, while the governments’ argued they needed this power in order to effectively address drunk driving in their jurisdictions. The Court decided that refusing a breath test could be criminalized because requiring the test did not violate the driver’s constitutional rights, however the Court also ruled that because of the invasive nature of blood tests, driver’s did have the right to refuse them, and that right could not be punished through criminal penalties. This paper argues that this may have been the correct decision as a constitutional matter, but the reasoning the Court uses to arrive at that opinion is flawed in a few key ways.