TOPEKA – (March 4, 2016) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today asked the state Supreme Court to put on hold recent decisions that declare state DUI-related statutes unconstitutional until the U.S. Supreme Court decides a similar case later this spring.
In a series of four cases announced last Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned state statutes related to DUI, most notably a statute making it a crime for a person suspected of DUI to refuse to submit to a breath test to determine blood-alcohol levels. The state court held that the statute as currently written violates constitutional rights. The Kansas cases are State v. Ryce, State v. Nece, State v. Wilson and State v. Wycoff.
But the U.S. Supreme Court already has agreed to hear cases from other states that present similar constitutional questions. Those cases, known together as Birchfield v. North Dakota, are scheduled for argument later this spring with a decision expected by the end of June.
“The final word on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution rests with the U.S. Supreme Court,” Schmidt said. “In this case, that final word is near, so it makes sense to put the Kansas decisions on hold until the definitive interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is settled in less than four months and the Kansas court’s interpretation likely is either confirmed or called into question.”
Schmidt today filed motions asking the Kansas Supreme Court to delay formally issuing its decisions, which were announced last Friday, pending the outcome of the federal case. Schmidt acknowledged the request is unusual but argued it is a reasonable approach given the timing of the state and federal cases. He noted that if the Kansas court declines to voluntarily delay its decisions, the state has the option of filing a formal appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, and under Kansas law that filing would automatically delay the Kansas decisions.
“This less-formal approach appears to be beneficial to everybody involved by minimizing the use of everybody’s resources while waiting for what may be a definitive answer from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Schmidt said. “Of course, because the Kansas case is not before it, there is no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Birchfield will squarely resolve the Kansas matter. But that does appear to be a reasonably likely outcome.”
Schmidt also announced that Kansas will join in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to decide the Birchfield case in a way that settles the dispute in Kansas in a manner that upholds Kansas statutes. A copy of the motions to delay its decisions announced last week filed today with the Kansas Supreme Court is available at http://1.usa.gov/1TVeteb .