Minors and Breathalyzers in Michigan

If you are minor, a police officer cannot force you to take a breathalyzer test without a warrant. This may seem hard to believe, but the federal district court for the Eastern District of Michigan made this the rule in 2007. Before 2007, Michigan had a law that gave police officers authority to require a minor to take a breathalyzer test if the officer believed that the minor had been drinking alcohol. However, in the case of Platte v. Thomas Township in 2007, the federal district court held that this statute was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the statute violated the 4th Amendment because it allowed police officers to make searches without a warrant. Now, in order to require a minor to take a breathalyzer test, an officer must first obtain a search warrant from a judge.

Importantly, if an officer has probable cause to believe that you have been drinking alcohol as a minor, the officer can arrest you and hold you while the officer obtains a search warrant from a judge. Probable cause might come from the form of visible drunkenness, a minor holding an alcoholic beverage in his or her hand, or any other evidence that suggests that the individual has been consuming or possesses alcohol. However, if there is no evidence that you have been drinking or possessing alcohol, then an officer cannot arrest you or obtain a search warrant because there will be no probable cause.

So what should you do if an officer tells you to take a breathalyzer test?

You should treat the officer with respect, but you can clearly tell the officer that you will not consent to take a breathalyzer test. If the officer demands that you take the breathalyzer, clearly and calmly state that you do not consent to a breathalyzer but do not resist the officer. A judge may later determine that the breathalyzer test was unconstitutional because you did not consent, and the judge can throw out any evidence from the breathalyzer test. If you choose to refuse a breathalyzer, remember that the officer may place you under arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe that you have been drinking. If it is clear that you have been drinking or are in possession of alcohol at the time that the officer approaches, it may not be in your best interest to refuse a breathalyzer because you could be placed under arrest and taken to the jail while the officer obtains a search warrant.

Finally, it is important to know that an officer can require anyone to take a breathalyzer test if the person has been driving after drinking alcohol. This applies to both minors and adults. If you are pulled over while driving and the officer has reason to believe you have been drinking, you do not have a right to refuse a breathalyzer test. This is known as “implied consent.” Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in this situation could result in suspension of your driver license for a year, in addition to other civil and criminal penalties.

If you or a loved one has been charged with minor in possession of alcohol, you should call an experienced criminal defense attorney to review your case. The experienced criminal defense team at White Law PLLC will fight to protect your rights. Contact our office for a free legal consultation of your case.