The US Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Bernard v. Minnesota. Bernard addresses Minnesota’s DWI refusal statute that makes it a crime to refuse to take a warrantless chemical test if law enforcement has probable cause to believe you have been operating a motor vehicle or boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Two years ago when SCOTUS decided Missouri v. McNeely ,133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), DWI law seemed to be heading for big changes around the country and here in Minnesota. Unfortunately, McNeely has not had as much of an impact as we had hoped here in Minnesota where the Implied Consent laws still rule supreme.
In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in McNeely, SCOTUS remanded a Minnesota DWI case, State v. Brooks, 838 N.W.2d 563 (Minn. 2013), to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Our Supreme Court held that “[t]aking blood and urine samples from someone constitutes a ‘search’ under the Fourth Amendment.” 838 N.W.2d 568. However, the Court held that the “police do not need a warrant if the subject of the search consents.” Id. Law enforcement can still obtain consent by threatening to charge a person suspected of driving under the influence with refusal to take a chemical test.
Minnesota is one of only thirteen states where refusing to take a chemical test, seemingly in violation of our Fourth Amendment rights is a crime. Not only is it a crime, but it is at least a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison or a $3,000 fine, or both. State v. Bernard, 859 N.W.2d 762 (Minn. 2015) directly addressed Minnesota’s refusal statute. The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the statute is constitutional, but now that it is in SCOTUS’s hands, we shall see what happens. In the interest of protecting our Fourth Amendment rights.
In the meantime, it means every defendant charged with an alcohol-related offense needs to proceed carefully to ensure he or she is not waiving vital opportunities to mitigate the consequences of such an offense. Contact Wilson Law Group to review your case and help you devise a strategy that protects your rights.