This Just In: Minnesota’s Test-Refusal Statute Unconstitutional

State v. Trahan, A13-0931, 62-CR-12-8574 (Minn. Ct. App. October 13, 2015)

In this case, Trahan was arrested on suspicion of DWI.  He was read the Implied-Consent Advisory and asked to speak with an attorney.  After several failed attempts to contact an attorney, Trahan stated he was finished with the phone. The Sheriff’s Deputy offered Trahan a blood or urine test. Trahan chose a urine test, but after failing to give an adequate sample he was offered a blood test, which he admittedly refused.

The Court of Appeals had to decide whether the test-refusal statute violates a driver’s right to due process by criminalizing his refusal to submit to a warrantless test of his blood.

Yes, the test-refusal statute does violate Trahan’s right substantive due process by criminalizing his refusal of an unconstitutional search, reversing his conviction.

Every citizen has the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment. A warrantless search is generally unreasonable unless it falls into a recognized exception to the warrant requirement.  The Court, applying reasoning from Bernard and McNeely, determined that neither the search-incident-to-arrest exception nor the exigent-circumstances exception applied to this case.

Because none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applied the search of Trahan’s blood would have been unconstitutional, thus impinging on his fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches. Applying the strict-scrutiny standard, the Court determined that criminalizing the refusal to an unconstitutional blood test is not a narrowly tailored means to the State’s interest of keeping Minnesota roads safe.

If you face DWI or DUI charges in Minnesota, an experienced attorney can help you to avoid mistakes and achieve the best possible outcome in your individual situation.  Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.