Bursting Bladder Doesn’t Render Breath Test Involuntary

by | April 25, 2018

Motor Vehicle Administration v. Smith, (Md. App. 2018)

An officer stopped Megan Smith at 0200 for driving without headlights. As the officer spoke to Smith, he detected an odor of alcohol on her breath. After Smith performed poorly on standard field sobriety tests, the officer arrested her and took her to a station for a breath test.

The officer read a standard admonition about the nature of the detention for driving under the influence and the sanctions associated with a refusal to submit to a chemical breath test. Smith signed the form and said that she really needed to go to the restroom right away. The officer refused to let her use the restroom. Smith took the breath test and her breath alcohol registered .18.

Smith subsequently challenged the voluntariness of her breath test. She claimed the officer violated her due process rights by refusing to let her use the restroom until she decided whether to take the test, thereby influencing whether she should submit to testing. It’s a theory of bladder competing with the brain.

The court didn’t explore the reason for the officer’s refusal to let Smith relieve herself. Perhaps the officer was concerned about the mandatory pre-test observation period. Nonetheless, the court held that Smith failed to show her bursting bladder “impaired her ability to appreciate the gravity of the circumstances or overcame her intention to refuse testing.”

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

More Posts
Share this post:

The Briefing – Your source for the latest blog articles, leadership resources and more