3rd Nov 2016
Once an individual has been arrested on suspicion of Driving While Impaired (“DWI”), Minnesota Statute § 169A.20, subd. 2 makes it a crime for an individual to refuse submit to an appropriate request for chemical testing. Recently, the Supreme Court of Minnesota analyzed whether an individual arrested on suspicion of DWI could be prosecuted for refusing to submit to a warrantless chemical test of the individual’s blood or urine. In State v. Trahan, the court ultimately concluded that Minnesota’s test refusal statute was unconstitutional as applied to an individual who refused to submit to a warrantless chemical test of the individual’s blood. Similarly, the court in State v. Thompson held that Minnesota’s test refusal statute was unconstitutional as applied to an individual who refused to submit to a warrantless chemical test of the individual’s urine. The logic underlying the court’s decision in both Trahan and Thompson was that the testing of an individual’s blood or urine involves a uniquely invasive search, and that less intrusive means are available for obtaining alcohol concentration results. To this end, it is notable that warrantless chemical breath tests incident to arrest on suspicion of DWI are still available. It is also possible than an individual could be prosecuted for DWI if other means are available to demonstrate that the individual was under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
The upshot of Trahan and Thompson is that individuals should be aware of their constitutional protection against warrantless chemical blood or urine tests. Prior to submitting to any chemical test following an arrest on suspicion of DWI, individuals should be cognizant of their right to discuss the proposed chemical test with legal counsel.