Warrantless blood tests in DWI cases, Missouri says no in McNeely, states disagree, P 1

Many of the stories on this blog directly involve issues that directly arise under Minnesota’s implied consent and driving while impaired laws. However, Minnesota criminal defense attorneys know that violations of rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution can arise in DWI cases all across the country.

In other situations, legal issues can arise in other states that parallel the issues facing Minnesota courts. This blog recently discussed the parallel arguments concerning the reliability of the Intoxilyzer breath testing machine that are being raised in Florida and Minnesota.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has the Intoxilyzer issue under review and is expected to issue a ruling that involves some 4000 Minnesota DWI and implied consent cases, although the high court does not have a deadline for issuing its rulings.

Recently, the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the trial court judge in ruling that a warrantless blood draw in a routine DWI case violated the defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures. The prosecutor who lost that case says he intends to appeal the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue of blood tests in DWI cases varies from state to state. Minnesota authorizes the use of blood tests in the implied consent and driving while impaired statutes. The laws provide specific procedures for how, and who, can draw a blood sample. Over the years, challenges have been brought to the taking of blood samples without a warrant as being unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.

The Missouri decision (McNeely v. Missouri) requires law enforcement to get a warrant to draw blood in a routine DWI case in that state. That ruling differs from the law in Minnesota, but the decision shows a growing spilt among states on the issue, despite a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an alcohol-related car accident.

Sources: AP via Southeast Missourian, “Mo. Supreme Court rejects warrantless DWI blood test in Cape County case,” Dana Fields, Jan. 18, 2012

Minnesota Supreme Court, “State v. Shriner, A07-181,” May 30, 2008

Minnesota Court of Appeals, “Harrison v. Commissioner of Public Safety, A09-1949,” May 4, 2010

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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