The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a warrantless alcohol test based upon probable cause in an investigation of an alleged drunk driving case does not violate a driver’s constitutional rights. The issue arose during a February 12, 2010 investigation into driving while impaired allegations in Lakeville. The man ultimately was accused of felony DWI.
A police officer claims that he observed a car make a left-hand turn in violation of a red left-turn arrow along Pilot Knob Road. The Lakeville officer says that the car made a later right hand turn without a signal, and the officer pulled the car over for the alleged traffic violations.
The Lakeville officer says he noticed several things that gave rise to a suspicion that the driver was under the influence. The driver reportedly also had a no use of alcohol restriction placed upon his driver’s license.
The driver apparently declined to speak with an attorney after being given his implied consent advisory. Minnesota law gives people suspected of DWI with a limited right to consult with an attorney before being subjected to a blood, breath or urine test during a DWI investigation.
Authorities say that they requested that the man take either a blood or urine test under Minnesota’s implied consent law. The man accused of DWI in Lakeville declined to speak with an attorney, and reportedly refused to take the alcohol test. The man said that “agreeing to testing is ‘not within [his] constitutional rights,'” according to the court.
Ultimately, the man was charged with first-degree DWI, and felony DWI test refusal. He challenged the implied consent law, arguing that making test refusal a criminal offense is unconstitutional. He argued that a passive or not violent refusal to consent to the test without a warrant violates due process. The trial court denied the challenge.
The Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the DWI test refusal statute does not violate a defendant’s constitutional rights. The court says that a police search based upon probable cause, and within the exigent-circumstances exception to the Constitution’s warrant requirement “does not constitute ‘unreasonable prying.'”
The court found the tests refusal statute does not violate the Constitution, even in the absence of a judicially authorized search warrant. The appellate court also held that imposing criminal penalties for DWI test refusal is also lawful.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Minnesota appeals court rules it’s OK to test drunken-driving suspect,” Maricella Miranda, July 17, 2012
Minnesota Court of Appeals, “State v.Wiseman, A11-1191,” July 16, 2012