The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the DWI conviction of a criminal defendant for refusing to submit to a urine test where police failed to obtain a search warrant. The Court held that Minnesota’s test-refusal statute is unconstitutional when applied to suspects who are charged with refusal to submit to either a warrantless blood or urine test.
The defendant in the case, Ryan Thompson, was stopped by police after bar closing for erratic driving and failed both the field sobriety and the preliminary breath tests. Thompson was arrested and read the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory. After being given a chance to contact an attorney, the officer requested that Thompson submit to either a blood or urine test. Thompson refused both tests and was charged in Steele County with second-degree test refusal and third-degree driving under the influence. The defendant was convicted of second-degree test refusal and took the case up on appeal arguing that the test refusal statute was unconstitutional.
The Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless searches and seizures. A warrantless search is considered unreasonable unless it falls within a recognized exception such as consent or a search-incident- to-arrest. The prosecution argued that the warrantless request for a blood or urine test by the police officer was constitutional as it fell within the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the search warrant requirement. The Minnesota Supreme Court recently held that a warrantless request for a breath test fell within the search-incident-to-arrest exception so the state attempted to make the same argument with regard to warrantless requests for blood or urine tests. The Court of Appeals did not agree with the state and reasoned that providing a urine sample in front of an officer in a DWI case is much more intrusive than providing a breath sample and violates our expectation of privacy.
If you have been charged with refusing to submit to a warrantless blood or urine test in a DWI case, please call me for a free phone consultation. I will file a motion to have the refusal charge dismissed based on the argument that the statute has been declared unconstitutional. The Minnesota Supreme Court will undoubtedly have the last word on this issue. But for now, it’s all good.