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Minnesota Supreme Court Holds Warrantless Urine Tests Are Unconstitutional

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently held the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to secure a warrant before requiring its citizens to submit to a blood or urine test, meaning Minnesotans can now lawfully refuse such a search when law enforcement doesn’t have a warrant. The Minnesota ACLU heralded the decision.

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Late one evening in April 2012, an Owatonna police officer watched patrons leaving a bar at closing time. The officer saw a vehicle, which police later determined appellant Thompson was driving, jump the curb and then stop quickly before reversing and leaving the parking lot. As the vehicle turned onto the street outside the bar, it cut the corner short and crossed the center line. The officer initiated a traffic stop.

When the officer approached the vehicle, Thompson provided the driver’s license of a female passenger in the vehicle. Thompson informed the officer that he did not have his license with him, but the officer was eventually able to identify Thompson by his name and date of birth. The officer noticed “an overwhelming odor” of alcohol coming from the vehicle while he spoke with Thompson, and he saw that Thompson had “watery and glassy eyes.” Thompson maintained that he had consumed only one beer.

After Thompson failed standardized field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test, the officer placed Thompson under arrest for DUI and transported him to the Steele County Detention Center. After reading the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory to Thompson, the officer asked Thompson to submit to a blood or urine test. Thompson refused both tests, and when asked why, he stated “[f]or the fact that I don’t think I’ve been prosecuted properly.”

The State charged Thompson with second-degree test refusal, third-degree driving while impaired, obstruction of legal process, and driving over the center line. Thompson moved for the dismissal of the test refusal charge, arguing that the application of the test refusal statute to him violated his substantive due process rights and the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions. Following his conviction, Thompson appealed.

The court of appeals reversed Thompson’s conviction, concluding that charging an individual with test refusal violates a fundamental right because a warrantless search of a driver’s blood or urine does not qualify under an exception to the warrant requirement, and the test refusal statute is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. The Minnesota Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review.

The State argued before the state high court that the test refusal statute was constitutionally applied to Thompson because a warrantless search of his blood or urine would have been constitutional as a search incident to a valid arrest. In the alternative, the State argued that even if a warrantless search violates the Fourth Amendment, the court should nevertheless uphold Thompson’s conviction under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected each of the state’s arguments in turn. First, the court reasoned that the intrusion into Thompon’s privacy interests outweighed the government’s need for a urine sample. Thus, a warrantless urine test did not fall within the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement. The court next held the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply because it is a rule of evidence, and Thompson did not challenge the admission of any evidence.

The court concluded that Thompson could not be prosecuted under the Fourth Amendment for refusing to consent to an unconstitutional search. Thus, Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2, which criminalizes an arrestee’s refusal to take a warrantless blood or urine test, was applied unconstitutionally to him.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.

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Supreme Court Holds Fourth Amendment Permits Warrantless Breath Tests, But Not Warrantless Blood Tests, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, July 1, 2016.