Minnesota Appeals Court Says DWI Urine Test Needed Warrant

By Kirk Anderson on January 10, 2016

The Minnesota Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of a Minnesota man who refused to take a urine test after stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence.

The court ruled that the police needed a warrant if they wanted a sample of the man’s urine to prove drunk driving. The arrest took place in 2012.

After all other charges were dropped, he was still convicted of refusing to take the urine test. He then challenged whether or not the test-refusal law was constitutional, saying that it violated the right of due-process.

This is not the first case challenging Minnesota’s test-refusal law. Two weeks prior, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the law. The law makes it a crime for a suspected drunk driver to refuse taking blood, urine, or breath tests. No warrant is needed to conduct these tests.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals said that conducting a blood, breath, or urine test on the man wouldn’t have been constitutional because it violated his fundamental right to be free of an unconstitutional search. The conviction was then vacated.

Now it remains to be seen what impact the ruling will have on the case. Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court will be reviewing the law.

In the Supreme Court review of State vs. Bernard, it has been argued since 2002 that the implied consent law is unconstitutional. Appellate courts have issued a number of rulings that state whether or not the law is constitutional due to the fact a warrant is not required to obtain samples. The belief among many is that DWI shouldn’t be treated any differently than other crimes.

Many states require a warrant before such testing is performed, otherwise it’s deemed an unreasonable search and the DWI case can be thrown out.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that taking urine and blood samples is a Fourth Amendment “search,” so it requires a warrant. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that these warrantless searches don’t violate constitutional rights. As a result, a person suspected of drunk driving can be charged with refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test if police believe there is sufficient evidence to get a search warrant to require the test – even if a warrant is not obtained.

In November 2015, the Court of Appeals ruled that obtaining blood tests without a warrant was intrusive, leaving warrantless urine tests as the only remaining issue. A judge ruled that a urine test is more intrusive than a breath test.