Breathalyzer test is reasonable request

To blow or not to blow, that is the question facing Minnesota drivers who are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence. According to a state law that was argued this week in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, if a police officer asks a driver to take a breathalyzer test to determine blood alcohol content, the driver can be charged with a crime for refusing the test.

Critics of the law say it violates the 4th amendment right protecting us from unreasonable searches to force someone to take a breathalyzer test without a warrant. Proponents of the law say it is necessary to keep drunk drivers off the road, and would be a tremendous burden on law enforcement and the judiciary to call for a search warrant every time a suspected drunk driver is stopped.

We tend to side with the police on this issue. If they stop a motorist and have reason to suspect the driver has been drinking, they should be able to determine if they are above the legal limit.

After all, driving a car is not the same as just walking down the street minding your own business. The state has a well-established interest in making sure you know what you are doing. You have to prove you know the rules of the road and be able to demonstrate your skill behind the wheel just to get a drivers license. Once you have the license there are other requirements you must meet – you have to have auto insurance, you have to maintain your car, and you have to wear a seat belt.

When you get behind the wheel, the state assumes you will follow the rules, like driving on the right hand side of the road, obeying speed limits and stopping for red lights and stop signs. When you get behind the wheel, you are basically agreeing that you will obey the rules, and one of the most important rules is that you don’t drink and drive.

If a police officer stops a driver he can ask for the driver’s license and proof of insurance and issue tickets if they can’t be produced. Why not proof of sobriety? It should be one of the requirement for the privilege of driving on the state’s roads.