North Dakotans Should Beware the Rise of Insta-Warrants


North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, from left, Justices Lisa Fair McEvers, Dale V. Sandstorm, Carol Ronning Kapsner and Daniel J. Crothers take questions from juniors and seniors following a hearing Monday, April 4, 2016, at Fargo South High School. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an odious DUI law passed by lawmakers in 2013 which criminalized the refusal of a warrantless blood test (warrantless breath tests were allowed to stand, despite a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but that’s a subject for another post).

It’s a good thing to require the government to get warrants for searches. Every exemption we allow from 4th amendment protections diminishes our privacy and our liberty.

Unfortunately, a side effect of a rigorous requirement for warranted searches is efforts to water down the warranting requirement. Case in point, Minot state Senator David Hogue – chairman of the Judiciary Committee – is already talking about establishing a system allowing law enforcement officers better and faster access to warrants:

North Dakota Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the state’s judicial branch may establish some kind of on-call system “so we can get warrants for blood draws where necessary, where a breathalyzer will not be acceptable.”

“Our job is not to be elated or disappointed, it’s just to react to it and to reformulate our policy based on what the Constitution requires and permits,” he said.

I’m not intending to launch a preemptive strike against Senator Hogue’s idea. There’s nothing inherently wrong with an on-call system allowing cops to access warrants quickly, even in the dead of the night. I’m hoping what Senator Hogue comes up with is a practical system that streamlines the warranting process while simultaneously upholding its integrity.

The last thing we want is to diminishes the protections of a warrant. We don’t want the process to become so routine that judges, woken at 3:00am to sign off on a warrant for a blood draw, are just rubber stamping the requests from law enforcement.

Warrants should not be issued lightly, even in seemingly routine cases, and if that’s a headache for law enforcement and the judiciary then that’s just too bad.