AP drops minor breath test mandate

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — Minors here must no longer submit to preliminary breath tests when suspected of underage drinking or face penalties.

In an amendment passed Nov. 13, the city council voted to delete a section of its charter which gave police officers the authority to require minors suspected of underage drinking to take preliminary breath tests, as similar laws have been ruled to violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits illegal search and seizure.

City Attorney Christopher Forsyth said the charter item was predominantly used when police responded to house parties, where teens were suspected of drinking alcohol.

“A preliminary breath test, even though it’s not as invasive as blood draws or the like, is still considered a search,” Forsyth said. “To conduct a search, you either have to have a warrant, you have to have consent or there has to be some kind of emergency situation. What the courts have said is minors drinking … none of those factors exist that would allow a person to force a minor to take the test.”

The amendment was first introduced at an Oct. 9 Council meeting and Forsyth said it had been discussed in the city’s Legal Affairs Commission meetings since July after similar ordinances were struck down in state and federal courts.

Forsyth said the ordinance came under fire in a recent district court case, in which the city conceded that its ordinance was invalid.

The change does not apply to minors suspected of drunken driving, as driver’s licenses are given under the provision that the driver will consent to breath tests.