Michigan Teen Challenging Warrantless Breathalyzer Law

Reduced drink drive limit
A police officer holds a breathalyzer.Andrew Milligan / PA Wire via AP

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By Corky Siemaszko

A Michigan teen who was ticketed — as a passenger — for balking at taking a Breathalyzer test says that she refused because the detective did not have a warrant.

Now 17-year-old Casey Guthrie has filed a federal lawsuit against the cop who slapped her with the $100 citation last month.

A police officer holds a breathalyzer.Andrew Milligan / PA Wire via AP

The honor student is also challenging the constitutionality of a Michigan law that makes it a civil infraction for anybody under age 21 to refuse a police officer’s request to blow into the device — and does not require the cop to produce a warrant.

"No adequate remedy exists at law to redress this unconstitutional policy, practice, and/or custom," the lawsuit states.

The law violates Guthrie's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches, her Detroit lawyer told NBC News.

“Her rights were violated when she was forced to submit to Breathalyzer to prove her innocence,” attorney Mike Rataj said. “That is not how the criminal justice system works. This is a girl who has never been in trouble before and has no criminal history.”

“Also, she was not the driver," Rataj noted. “She was a passenger in a car with a bunch of other high school seniors.”

Rataj added that Guthrie’s father is a retired ATF officer who had warned her earlier never to submit to a Breathalyzer without a warrant . He said Guthrie’s dad arrived at the scene after Detective Kenneth Pelland of the Gross Isle Township police pulled the car over last month.

“She called her father,” Rataj said. “This particular officer is notorious for intimidating kids... The officer lied and said he smelled alcohol on her.”

There was no immediate response to Rataj’s charge or the lawsuit from Township Supervisor Brian Loftus or from Pelland.

Michigan judges have struck down challenges to warrantless Breathalyzer tests three times over the last decade.

But the Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of laws in 13 states that make it a crime for drivers to refuse a blood alcohol test, even when the police don't have a search warrant.

State officials have argued that without the authority to punish drivers who refuse blood alcohol tests there will be more drunk driving deaths.