Minnesota’s implied consent law designates refusal of chemical testing (i.e. blood test or urine test) by a DWI suspect as a criminal offense. Violation subjects a driver to a more serious criminal charge and additional penalties.
The Impact of Implied Consent is Significant
The significance of the criminal sanctions imposed for a refusal under the law is magnified by the fact that an acquittal of the DWI offense does not eliminate the penalties for a test refusal. However, warrantless tests of blood and urine under Minnesota’s implied consent law have recently been determined to be unconstitutional.
The law continues to be in flux with pending appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court involving cases from Minnesota and North Dakota. However, warrantless testing of blood or urine remains unconstitutional by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that warrantless breath tests do not constitute violations of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.
Warrantless Blood Test (State v. Trahan)
Implied consent laws like that in Minnesota have been under siege in many states since a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that indicated law enforcement officers usually must obtain a search warrant before compelling a blood test from a suspected drunk driver. The Minnesota Court of Appeals also found that officers must have a warrant to direct a driver to submit to a chemical blood test when suspected of DUI in the Trahan case in October 2015.
In Trahan, a motorist was pulled over after an officer purportedly observed erratic driving by the driver. After the stop, the officer alleged that the driver emitted the odor of alcohol and exhibited difficulty standing. The motorist’s driver’s license was also suspended related to a prior DWI offense. He was charged and convicted under Minnesota’s implied consent law for refusing to submit to a DWI blood or urine test. While the appeals court had previously found the warrantless blood draw in Trahan constitutional, the Minnesota Supreme Court referred the case back for reconsideration.
Warrantless Urine Test (State v. Thompson)
The court in State v. Thompson applied the same analysis as the Trahan court in finding Minnesota’s implied consent law violates the Fourth Amendment by criminalizing warrantless blood and urine test refusals. Like the court in Trahan, the court ruled that the use of a warrantless urine test (or blood test) was not narrowly tailored enough to the compelling state objective of preventing drunk driving fatalities and injuries.
A Blood Test is a Serious Intrusion, but a Breath Test is Not
The reconsideration focused on the legality of the implied consent law. The court reasoned, “Blood draws are serious intrusions into the human body that implicate a person’s ‘most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy.’ Unlike breath, blood does not naturally and regularly exit the body.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted some exceptions to the warrant requirement for blood draws. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that concern about the dissipation of evidence during the time a warrant is sought does not constitute exigent (demanding) circumstances mitigating the need to obtain a warrant.
While the majority acknowledged that the state has a compelling interest in removing intoxicated motorists from the roadways, it concluded that criminalizing the refusal to submit to warrantless blood tests is not narrowly tailored to meet that compelling interest.
If you have been arrested for DWI or refusal of a chemical blood test or urine test, we invite you to speak to a Minnesota DWI Lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.