Most of us do not operate our lives thinking about United States Supreme Court decisions. However, those decisions shape the world we live in and balance public policies against constitutional freedoms based on the issues of the times. There are three key SCOTUS cases that have been or were recently decided that impact each person who might read this blog in some way. Understanding these cases helps ensure the public that the branches government are represented by the people.
The first is Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (June 23, 2016). To make the complex cases more useful to non-lawyers a different format is used in this blog to assist:
|Facts:||Three different individuals were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. One refused a blood test, another refused a breathalyzer. Both were convicted based upon their refusals. The third defendant submitted to a blood test but argued that it was coerced since he complied after being told it was a crime to refuse the test.|
|Question 1:||Can states make it illegal for a person suspected of drinking and driving to refuse a breathalyzer test without a warrant?|
|Question 2:||Can states make it illegal for a person suspected of drinking and driving to refuse a blood test without a warrant?|
|Answer:||A search warrant is required for a blood test but not for a breathalyzer.|
|Reasoning:||The impact on a person asked to take a breathalyzer is slight but blood tests are significantly more intrusive.|
|Conclusion:||Motorists may not be criminally punished for refusing a blood test based on implied consent.|
What this case means to you is that your State, Indiana or any other, cannot pass a statute the makes failure to submit to a blood test a criminal act. However, states may regulate the issue of drinking and driving by a variety of other mechanisms, such as revoking a license or other civil or regulatory action. Perhaps we all know someone who has a DUI. This case defines some of the criminal limits on law-making.
Two cases in the process of being decided or recently decided also impact all of us each day. The first is Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, No. 15-866:
|Facts:||Varsity Brands granted copyrights for designs on cheerleading uniforms. Star Athletica was sued for infringement of those rights.|
|Question:||Can artistic elements be separated from useful elements such that copyrights are allowed for certain types of clothing?|
|Answer:||Copyright Office granted the copyrights; the lower court found them invalid; the 6th Circuit reversed and upheld the copyrights.|
|Issue on Cert:||Whether a graphic design depicted on a useful article, such as a garment, is copyrightable?|
This case is focused on “property” created in the mind. Almost everyone can think of a something on an item of clothing that signals a certain brand or manufacturer. This case focuses on how those rights may be protected as many things we can see or use have unique features that build brand value which equates to dollars and cents. This cases focuses on how much protection is afforded and may impact everyone from graphic designers and how much they are paid for their work to the cost to the consumer.
The final case is Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, No. 15-606:
|Facts:||Defendant, immigrant from Mexico, sought new trial after learning that jurors made racially disparaging comments during deliberations.|
|Question:||Whether a state evidentiary rule barring trial courts from impeaching juror deliberations still applies when evidence of racial bias is offered to challenge a verdict?|
|Answer:||Lower court held that evidence of racial bias did not meet exception to rule barring impeachment of jury verdict and state Supreme Court affirmed.|
|Issue on Cert:||Whether the 6th Amendment and Due Process Clause compel the court to examine whether evidence of racial bias during jury deliberations affected the outcome of the trial?|
This too points to issues that first arose with great intensity in the 1960s Civil Rights Movements. Essentially, this case attempts to balance justice and order and finality of decisions with civil rights. This too ensures the constitutional concepts of freedom are met.
Ultimately, we hope this blog post help you understand the implications of being a citizen in a free nation and the legal system that guards this freedom. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. and is intended for general educational purposes. It is not a solicitation for legal services. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle a wide array of regulatory, civil, and criminal cases across the State, including appeals to higher courts.