Urine Testing for DWI Is NOT Accurate in Minnesota

If you have been charged with a DWI in Minnesota, chances are that, after your arrest, you were asked to take one of three types of testing methods: a breath test, a urine test or a blood test. Due to challenges to the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 5000 machine on which breath samples were taken until 2011-2012, many local police departments were offering a urine test or a blood test instead of a breath test. Police departments offer urine and blood tests because they believe the method of analyzing the samples is more valid than that of samples provided via the Intoxilyzer machine used to take breath tests. Unfortunately for the police departments — but fortunately for you — urine testing is no more reliable than a breath sample.

Minnesota is one of very few states to use what is commonly referred to as “first void” urine testing in its DWI cases. First void urine testing uses the first urine sample provided by a driver suspected of DWI — that is, as soon as you are arrested, the police will ask you to urinate into a cup, and they will analyze this sample in an attempt to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). Most states explicitly reject this first void urine test results as unreliable. These states require suspected DWI drivers to “void their bladder” before giving a sample of their urine. Voiding of the bladder usually involves having a driver urinate into a cup, discarding this sample of urine and then having the driver provide a second sample of his or her urine. This is commonly referred to as “second void” urine testing. It is presumed to more accurately reflect the BAC of the driver because the “second void” sample is taken at a time when the urine has not been subject to “urine pooling” or “spoliation.”

The issues with urine pooling and spoliation are best explained by the following example: A driver suspected of DWI is stopped by the police at 11 A.M. The driver consents to taking a urine test. This driver has not consumed a drop of alcohol since midnight, 11 hours before. However, prior to midnight this driver drank six beers. This driver has also not urinated since he drank his last beer at midnight. Because the driver has not urinated, the alcohol concentration of his urine will still reflect the alcohol concentration he had following his last beer — that is, the alcohol concentration of his urine will reflect that he consumed six beers, and will likely be over the legal limit of .08. However, he will not be impaired at the time the sample is provided to the police — 11 hours have passed since he had his last drink, and his body has processed all of the alcohol in his system. Thus, his BAC is zero. But, because his urine has been sitting in his body for 11 hours, his alcohol concentration as measured by the “first void” urine sample will be over .08. He will then be charged with DWI, even though his actual BAC at the time the test was given is either zero or well below the legal limit of .08.

Minnesota’s use of first void urine testing is rejected by a number of groups involved in forensic testing — most notably, the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. Ideally, the Supreme Court of Minnesota will realize that Minnesota’s isolation in using first void urine testing is unacceptable, and reject any use of first void urine testing in the future.

If you have been charged with a DWI based on your submission to a urine test, you are not out of options. Some criminal defense attorneys may tell you that challenging the results of your urine test is futile. This is not true. You just need a criminal defense attorney who actually knows the ins and outs of urine testing, and why Minnesota’s methods of urine testing are unreliable. Hire a criminal defense attorney who not only knows all the pratfalls of the state’s methods of urine testing, but also has successfully litigated these issues before the trial courts. Contact us today for a free consultation on your Minnesota DWI.

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