On Monday The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld that drivers who refuse to yield to a DWI urine test (without warrant) can not be prosecuted. A conviction of a motorist in Steele County was deemed as affecting fundamental rights to be free of unconstitutional searches. The stop that led to the DWI urine test was at closing time in April 2012 outside a bar in Owatonna. The driver had traversed the center line, jumped a curb and cut a corner after leaving the car park. The arresting officer sensed the odor of alcohol and ‘glassy eyes’. The driver who claimed he had one beer failed the field sobriety test. The driver then refused a DWI urine test. Thereafter charged with a test refusal (second degree).

In 2013 the Supreme Court had ruled law enforcement must take steps to secure a search warrant prior to securing blood tests for DUI suspects. The State Appeals Court in October put forward a similar ruling. This has now been extended to a DWI urine test. In the interim the Supreme Court has further considerations to mull over. Are States (inclusive Minnesota) able to criminalize drivers for refusing an alcohol test if law enforcement have no search warrant.

The Minnesota case involved a driver who’s truck had become stuck. This while he was attempting to tow a craft from a river. Officers smelt alcohol and also reported bloodshot eyes. The driver refused a breath test and was taken in to custody. The driver was thereafter charged with refusal of a breath test (First Degree). This carries a minimum sentence of 3 years incarceration. The driver had argued Fourth Amendment rights in that refusal law violated his rights. In that his very refusal had been criminalized by refusing to yield to a search. A Minnesota Supreme Court, although divided, decided to uphold the law. The court cited that law enforcement can secure a warrantless breath test as per a “search incident to a valid arrest.”

The court of Appeals however, in the Owatonna case, concluded in keeping with a warrantless blood test a warrantless DWI urine test can not be justified within “search incident-to-arrest exception.” A DWI urine test is seen as being far more intrusive. The driver’s attorney commented the decision will assist Minnesota in recognising the federal Constitution. Further commenting that the decision was the final link for the three tests (blood, breath, and urine). For the full story please follow this link.

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