So now that the US Supreme Court and Minnesota Supreme Court have weighed in regarding warrantless blood alcohol tests in the DWI context, where does the law currently stand? In Minnesota, we now have a fact-based inquiry as to whether a person consented to giving an alcohol test. Under Minnesota law, a police officer is prohibited from taking an alcohol test in most instances if a person refuses to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample. So, there are few cases where a police officer would take a sample without a warrant and without a person’s compliance.
However, just because a person agrees to comply with a test, does that mean that they consent? This is likely to be the key issue going forward. It is a crime to refuse a test in Minnesota. But, under established law, if a person consents to a search, no warrant is required. So, to effectively assert your 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and require a warrant, you have to be very careful and precise about whether you’re consenting to a test and whether you’ll comply with the test. For example, if a police officer asks if you agree to take a test, and you say “yes,” have you consented to a search, thereby waiving the warrant requirement? It’s a tricky issue, and one that courts are sure to struggle with as the legal landscape develops. So, if you know someone facing a DWI, make sure they talk to an experienced St. Paul DWI Lawyer to learn about possible defenses under the new legal standards.
Eric Rice is a Minnesota DWI Attorney serving Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the Twin Cities.