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Bill Requires Warrant for PBT for Under 21

Clarkston Legal May 10, 2017

Over the years, we have had many clients, most of them college students, submit to a randomly administered preliminary breath test. Often, these people are caught-up in the alcohol sweeps on college campuses.

To obtain the PBT, the police currently need no articulable suspicion or any other reason to subject someone under 21 to a breath test. They could be merely present, minding their own business at a party; it does not matter.

A new bill introduced by Representative Pete Lucido of Shelby Township would require police to obtain a warrant prior to administering the PBT. All warrants must be based on probable cause so the police would need to articulate specific facts to a judge or magistrate in order to obtain the warrant.

Representative Lucido says that the practice of random administration of PBTs to persons under 21 violates the United States Constitution. He says a federal case held as much a decade ago, but the practice continues among law enforcement and the courts here in Michigan.

On its face, this new warrant requirement would seem to make the process of obtaining a PBT impractical. For example, we have been involved in many cases where the police break-up a party, then corral as many as a dozen young people to administer PBTs en masse.

With the new warrant requirement, the police will now need to hold all of these individuals while they contact a jurist and apply for a warrant for each individual. This seems less likely to happen, except in the most obvious of cases.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan Sheriffs Association opposes the bill. The Sheriffs Association points to the added difficulty involved in obtaining a warrant.

The Sheriffs Association believes the warrant requirement removes a valuable law enforcement tool from their kit, nevermind that it is unconstitutional. They say that the bill does nothing to protect our communities from underage drinking.

We will monitor this bill to track its process into law. Meanwhile, if you or a family member are accused of being a minor in the possession of alcohol, contact our office to assess your options.