CHEYENNE — A 2011 Wyoming law that allows judges to grant requests from police over the telephone for warrants to force motorists to submit to DUI testing passes constitutional muster, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The ruling came in response to a challenge from two Teton County motorists. The ruling means that their cases may now proceed in the court system.
Lawyers for motorists Dena T. Blomquist and Terry Smith had argued before the Supreme Court in April that evidence of their clients' blood-alcohol levels should be suppressed. The lawyers said telephonically approved warrants didn't meet the constitutional requirements.
Lawyers for the Wyoming Attorney General's Office counted that the telephonic warrants were just as valid as ones with written police affidavits because the conversation between the officer and the judge was recorded and officers provided sworn testimony over the telephone.
State Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, drafted the new law. He's also a lawyer with the Teton County Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the motorists.
"We passed that two years ago in order to combat drunk driving, and it's been a very effective tool," Gingery said Friday.
Gingery said the law respected constitutional protections while acknowledging technological advancements.
"I think it's very positive, both for protection of personal liberties, which we will continue to do, but also as a tool for fighting against drunk driving," Gingery said.
Gingery said he intended the law to target repeat DUI offenders. Before the law went into effect, he said many of them routinely refused to consent to tests knowing it was difficult to get a judge to sign off on warrants in person.
"It's really those multiple DUI drivers that are really dangerous," Gingery said. He said he knew there would be challenges to the law.
"The court has clearly found the law to be constitutional, so I think we can move forward now with confidence," Gingery said.
Stephen E. Weichman, Teton County attorney, declined comment on the ruling on Friday, saying the prosecutions against the motorists are still pending.
Jackson lawyer Richard D. Stout, representing Blomquist, also declined comment on Friday. Stout said he couldn't talk about the ruling while the criminal case against his client is pending.