Thursday, February 10, 2005

Troppman v. Gourley (Cal. Ct. App. - February 8, 2005)

The California Supreme Court has got to take this case up.

The issue is basically this: When you're drunk and slumped over your steering wheel, if you refuse to take a blood or breath test, can the state take away your driver's license even without proving that you ever drove drunk? The California Court of Appeals has been divided on this issue for -- by my count -- seventeen years, with multiple published opinions supporting both sides of this dispute. One set of cases holds that you can't have your license pulled for refusing such a test if you haven't, in fact, been driving drunk (e.g., if you merely pulled into a parking lot, shut off the car, got loaded, and passed out). Another set of cases -- including this one -- holds that your license is indeed properly revoked in such settings because even if you haven't driven drunk, the statute requires (and you've validly consented to) taking a test if there's probable cause to believe that you're driving while intoxicated, so if you refuse, they can properly revoke.

It's an important issue. It's divided the Courts of Appeal for a long, long time. There are multiple published opinions on both sides. The issue arises all the time. What better case for certiorari can you have?! Indeed, why hasn't the California Supreme Court already resolved this dispute?

Whether you're forced to consent to a breath test under penalty of getting your license pulled shouldn't depend upon what county you're in. Much less should it depend upon what panel of the Court of Appeals you happen to draw. Right now, it does. This case calls -- indeed, screams -- for resolution by the California Supremes.