TOPEKA – (June 29, 2016) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt yesterday asked the Kansas Supreme Court to reconsider its opinions in a group of DUI cases in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Birchfield.
The attorney general’s requests filed yesterday afternoon come after the recent U.S Supreme Court decision on three DUI-related cases, known together as Birchfield v. North Dakota, which addressed the constitutionality of criminally punishing post-arrest refusals to submit to testing to determine blood alcohol levels. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunken driving. Additionally, the Court found that there was no legal right to refuse a breath test incident to arrest and upheld a conviction for refusal to comply with the requested breath test. As a result of this decision, previous conclusions made by the Kansas Supreme Court in State v. Ryce, State v. Nece, State v. Wilson, and State v. Wycoff require reconsideration.
“The Kansas cases reached a different result that appears inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding,” Schmidt said. “Although the issues presented are not identical, the bottom line is the same: The U.S. Supreme Court says the U.S. Constitution allows the state to criminally punish a driver’s refusal of a breath test after a DUI arrest, and the Kansas Supreme Court has said it does not. We think the Kansas court’s conclusion must yield to that of the U.S. Supreme Court, and we have requested clarity on the matter.”
In February, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned a state statute making it a crime for a person suspected of DUI to refuse to submit to a test to determine blood-alcohol levels. The state court held that the statute as currently written violates constitutional rights. Shortly after, Schmidt filed motions asking the Kansas Supreme Court to delay formally issuing the mandate on its decisions on the four Kansas cases, State v. Ryce, State v. Nece, State v. Wilson and State v. Wycoff, pending the outcome of the Birchfield case. Motions were later filed asking the Court to reconsider its decisions striking down the refusal statute, which effectively stayed the mandate in the cases. The Kansas Supreme Court has taken no action on the pending motions.
In March, Schmidt joined 17 other attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Birchfield case urging the Court to decide the case in a way that upholds the constitutionality of Kansas’ statutes.
A copy of yesterday’s filings is available at http://1.usa.gov/2940TDt.