Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law (DWI Cases) Upheld as Constitutional

Minnesota’s “implied consent” law states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving or boating while intoxicated, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC).  The test must be taken within two hours of when you were last driving or boating. Refusal to submit to a chemical test is a crime, but if you refuse, a test cannot be administered.

The officer must read you an Implied Consent Advisory which informs you that the law requires you to submit to a chemical test, and that refusing the test is a crime. You must be given the opportunity to speak with an attorney for a reasonable time. Refusing to submit to a chemical test is a crime in itself, and is generally more severe than the DWI offenses. Along with the elevated offense is the revocation of your driver’s license, generally one year for a first offense.

The officer directs which of the three chemical tests you will be subject to. If a breath test is offered, and subsequently refused, then you can be charged with Test Refusal. If either a blood or urine test is offered, you may refuse, but must submit to either of the two alternative tests, or be charged with a Test Refusal. Refusing Field Sobriety Tests, such as the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), is not a crime under this law.

To read more about this law see Minnesota Statute 169A.51-.52

The Minnesota Implied Consent law was recently upheld as constitutional by the Minnesota Supreme Court in State v. Bernard, A13-1245 (Minn. February 11, 2015). In this case, a driver refused to submit to a chemical test, and was charged with Test Refusal. The Defendant argued that the Test Refusal Statute was unconstitutional because it criminalized the refusal to consent to an unreasonable, warrantless search of his body.

The Court held that Bernard’s warrantless breath test was legal under the “search incident to arrest” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The rationale is that because police had probable cause to arrest (on suspicion of DWI) they may conduct a search of the person’s body (who is under arrest) pursuant to that arrest, in the interests of officer safety and to prevent the destruction of evidence.

This decision (State v. Bernard) only expressly addressed the warrantless search of a person’s breath, and left the door open as to whether the warrantless search of a person’s blood or urine is constitutional or not. Other court decisions suggest that blood and urine testing is more intrusive into a person’s body, and cannot be conducted without a warrant in the absence of an emergency or other recognized exception to the warrant requirement.

Attorneys Tom Sieben and Patrick Cotter have years of experience navigating Minnesota’s DWI laws and can assist you in making the right decision under the specific circumstances of your DWI case. Take advantage of your RIGHT to consult with an attorney and contact call the Sieben & Cotter Law Office at 651-455-1555 for your free initial consultation.