Kansas AG asks court to reconsider rulings on sobriety tests

Posted at 4:12 AM, Jun 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-30 05:12:53-04
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the state's highest court to reconsider rulings earlier this year that motorists suspected of drunken driving cannot be punished for refusing to take sobriety tests.
 Schmidt cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Minnesota and North Dakota cases in filing his request Monday with the Kansas Supreme Court. The nation's highest court said the U.S. Constitution allows states to punish drivers who refuse to take breath tests, distinguishing them from blood tests.
The Kansas court in February struck down a state law making it a misdemeanor for motorists to refuse to take a breath, blood or urine test, punished by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,250. Its finding, made in four separate cases, has been on hold since March.
Schmidt said in a statement Tuesday that the Kansas court's conclusion "appears inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's holding."
"We think the Kansas court's conclusion must yield to that of the U.S. Supreme Court," Schmidt said.
Under Kansas law, anyone who operates a motor vehicle gives implied consent to breath, blood or urine testing to assess his or her sobriety. But the Kansas Supreme Court concluded that motorists are allowed to withdraw their consent when they're stopped and that protections in the U.S. Constitution against unreasonable warrantless searches prevent the state from penalizing them.
About a dozen states make it a crime to refuse to consent to warrantless alcohol testing. Supreme courts in Minnesota and North Dakota have ruled that their laws don't violate motorists' constitutional rights.
Kansas state Sen. Greg Smith, an Overland Park Republican, said the ruling by his state's highest court was surprising because citing motorists for refusing breath tests has "been around as long as I can remember."
"That's by far the least intrusive test out there," said Smith, the chairman of the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee.
In its decision last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said breath tests do not involve "significant privacy concerns" because they don't require piercing the skin or leave biological samples in the government's possession. The nation's highest court said they're permissible without a warrant, and states can punish motorists for refusing to consent to them.
But the U.S. Supreme Court reached a different conclusion for blood tests because they're more intrusive, saying police must obtain a search warrant before compelling motorists to take them.