Appelman

Minnesota Judges Rule “Implied Consent” Laws Unconstitutional

Friday, 16. August 2013

Appelman Law FirmIn the wake of the decision in Missouri v. McNeely, many Minnesota judges have thrown out DUI cases on the basis that the implied consent law, which states that drivers are required to submit to a chemical test at the request of law enforcement, is unconstitutional.

Under the implied consent law, a driver can be subjected to criminal charges if they refuse to submit to a chemical test. The statute reads:

Any person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state or on any boundary water of this state consents… to a chemical test of that person’s blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, a controlled substance or its metabolite, or a hazardous substance.”

In addition, Subj. 2 of the statute has the following clauses:

  • The law requires a person to take a test to determine if the person is under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or hazardous substances; and
  • Refusal to take the test is a crime.

Now that judges are throwing out drunk driving cases on the basis that the implied consent law is unconstitutional, law enforcement officials must change their collection methods.

Requiring a Warrant

In the wake of the rulings, Stearns County decided to adopt a new policy; law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant before taking a blood test from a suspected drunk driver.

In addition, officers in Stearns County will no longer read the implied consent warning when speaking to a suspected drunk driver. Instead, the officer will ask the driver to voluntarily submit to a chemical test. If the driver refuses, the officer must track down a judge to sign a warrant before they can legally obtain a chemical sample.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said he wasn’t pleased with the change.

“I understand what has precipitated it,” said Anderson. “But driving is a privilege, and all of us who have a driver’s license and sign on that line are consenting (to a test when an officer requests a test),” Anderson said.

Criminal Defense Attorney Geoff Saltzstein wholeheartedly disagrees with Anderson’s interpretation of the law.

“Under U.S. law, there exists a clause known as the ‘unconstitutional conditions doctrine’, which explicitly states that the government cannot provision a discretionary benefit, in this case, a driver’s license, upon the requirement that an individual give up a constitutionally protected right, in this case, the 4th amendment, which specifically protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The doctrine, a result of the 1926 case of Frost & Frost Trucking Co. v. Railroad Comm’n, states:

“[T]he power of the state […] is not unlimited; and one of the limitations is that it may not impose conditions which require relinquishment of constitutional rights. If the state may compel the surrender of one constitutional right as a condition of its favor, it may, compel a surrender of all. It is inconceivable that guarantees embedded in the Constitution of the United States may thus be manipulated out of existence. 

Looking Ahead

One case that will be crucial in determining how chemical collection procedures change in the future is State v. Brooks. In the case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a “single-factor exigency” permitted officers to obtain a chemical test without a warrant. That ruling was overturned by the United State Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the Appeals Court with the instructions to reconsider their ruling under the new precedent set forth in McNeely v. Missouri, which disregarded that the dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream is enough of a reason to forcefully obtain a blood sample.

DUI Attorney Stacy Kaye explained her interpretation of the recent rulings, and how the laws may change going forward.

“The United States Supreme Court remanded Brooks, not in the sense that there was consent as the 4th amendment consent exception requires, but in the sense that the Defendant agreed to submit to testing after being informed that refusal was a crime. In McNeely, the driver said ‘no’ and they took his blood anyway. Anybody can see that the Supreme Court wouldn’t have vacated all of Brooks’ convictions and ‘remanded to the Minnesota Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of McNeely’ if they meant for McNeely to be limited to nonconsensual blood tests.”

“The Minnesota Supreme Court granted accelerated review to the Brooks cases, and a ruling is expected by the end of the year, but whoever loses will almost certainly appeal. If the State prevails here, the Supreme Court has been incredibly unsubtle about their intention to declare implied consent laws unconstitutional in states that criminalize a refusal.”

“This could all take several years, but in the meantime, certain judges are denying these challenges because Brooks hasn’t been formally decided yet, or because they simply don’t like the idea of being woken up in the middle of the night to sign a warrant. It’s a shame that the Fourth Amendment is taking a backseat to the convenience of government employees.”

Related sources: Stearns County Times, Blog.PacificLegal.com

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Avery Appelman is a criminal defense lawyer and the founder of Appelman Law Firm. While his practice is primarily recognized for its work with DWI and related offenses, he has 16 years of experience working with clients on drug, assault, theft, traffic, criminal sexual conduct, and prostitution charges.

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