Minnesota's DWI Test Refusal Law Is Unconstitutional

Recently the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that it is unconstitutional to charge someone with a crime for refusing to submit to a DWI blood test when police officers do not have a warrant. Although the Court did not say so explicitly, the same reasoning will likely apply to DWI urine tests.

Minnesota’s DWI test-refusal statute makes it a crime to refuse to submit to a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine administered to detect the presence of alcohol when the person has been lawfully placed under arrest for driving while impaired and an officer has read the person the implied-consent advisory. Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2.

In State v. Trahan, the defendant Todd Eugene was stopped by a deputy for speeding. Trahan was arrested after the officer determined he was driving on a canceled license, and after the deputy suspected Trahan was under the influence of alcohol while driving. Because Trahan was so “agitated and unpredictable” the deputy did not administer any field sobriety tests.

After being read the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory, the deputy offered Trahan a blood or urine test, and Trahan agreed to take the urine test. Upon receipt, the deputy believed Trahan tampered with the urine sample because it appeared to be watery. The deputy deemed Trahan’s conduct to be a refusal to submit a urine sample and asked for Trahan for a blood test, which Trahan refused. Trahan was convicted of first-degree refusal to submit to a chemical test, and sentenced to 60 months.

The Minnesota Supreme Court determined there was no viable exception present to demand a warrantless blood draw. This is because under the search-incident to arrest exception, a blood draw is simply too intrusive. Also, it would not have been allowed in this case under an exigent circumstance exception, because the officer was not faced with an emergency as there was no question to the future availability of Trahan, and there would have been time to obtain a warrant.

Lastly, the court determined that the statute criminalizing the refusal of a blood draw was unconstitutional in this case, because Trahan had a fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches, and because there was no warrant or warrant an exception.

What does this mean for your DWI case?

Primarily, it means that you might have a defense that was previously unavailable. Essentially, police officers need a warrant to draw your blood. Refusing to submit to a warrantless blood draw is no longer considered a crime. Also, if you decided to consent to the test because you were told that refusal to take it would a crime, there is a serious question over the constitutionality of your arrest.

So, if you are arrested for DWI or DUI in Minnesota, make sure to contact a DWI attorney who is familiar with the changing DWI laws.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Minnesota DWI Laws: