Recently, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review Minnesota’s implied consent DWI law, which makes it a crime for a suspected drunk driver to refuse a breath test. This law is unique across the country and has been criticized by many as unconstitutional. The High Court will now provide its ultimate authority on the matter in State v. Bernard. The Supreme Court’s opinion will have a significant impact on the state’s current DWI practice, as well DWI laws across the nation.
An Infringement on Constitutional Rights or an Important Law For Protecting the Public?
The debate now centers on whether Minnesota’s test-refusal DWI law is constitutional. Challengers to the law believe that by criminalizing refusal to take a breath test, individuals are forced to surrender their constitutional protection without due process. Appellate courts are currently split on the issue of whether a warrant should be required to administer a breath, urine, or blood test.
The case now before the United State’s Supreme Court began in 2012. William Bernard was at a public boat ramp when police asked him to complete a field sobriety test. He refused and was arrested. Police again asked him to undergo a breath test and he refused, which led to a felony charge for refusal to submit to DWI testing. The state Court of Appeals upheld the law and the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed that it was constitutional.
Supporters of the law believe that a warrantless breath test is legal under an exception that allows police to search a suspect to prevent the destruction of evidence or in the interest of officer safety. Many believe the law plays an important role in keeping impaired drivers off the roads.
The United State’s Supreme Court has taken the stance that taking a blood or urine sample constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment and requires a warrant. To allow Minnesota’s test-refusal law to stand essentially nullifies the warrant requirement in almost every drunk driving case.
Changes Could Come to Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law
If the United State’s Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota’s DWI test-refusal law, this will have a significant impact on law enforcement across the country. Tens of thousands of breathalyzer tests are currently administered each year. The state will need to re-write its law and reform its practice of administering this test.
Currently, Minnesota is one of twelve states that actually make it a crime to refuse a test if arrested on suspicion of DWI. Several other states impose a penalty on the offender’s license. Minnesota is also unique in that an offender can be convicted for refusing the test, even if later acquitted of the DWI.
If test-refusal law is upheld, states across the country are bound to review their current implied consent laws and perhaps attempt to model them after Minnesota’s strong law. This could have national implications for the field of DWI criminal law, leaving those pulled over on suspicion of DWI with little choice but to comply with a breath, urine, or blood test.
Get Help With Your DWI/DUI Charge
If you have been arrested or charged with a DWI/DUI offense in Minnesota, we invite you to speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. DWI offenses can be quite serious in our state and you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney to mount your strongest defense against the charges. SuperLawyer Gerald Miller has assisted over 10,000 people over the past 30 years and will provide you with the highest quality of legal representation. Call us 24 hours a day at (612) 430-6743 to start protecting your legal rights.