MN Supreme Court: Warrant needed for DWI urine tests

- Minnesota’s DWI laws are a lot more clear after the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Wednesday the law criminalizing refusal of a urine test is unconstitutional. The decision means police will need a warrant to force a driver to submit to a urine test.

The decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year on breath and blood tests; the court decided police do not need a warrant for breath tests, but do need a warrant for blood tests. But, the court left urine tests undecided.

“The state of Minnesota’s DWI laws has been unsettled for many years, and barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, we’ve got that finality,” said Dan Koewler, the attorney who argued the urine case before the state supreme court. “Everybody in Minnesota has a lot more certainty, which is generally good when it comes to law enforcement.”

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court also clarified that, like the highest court had decided, police need warrants to require urine tests.

In the ruling on urine tests, the court reasoned urine tests were an invasion of privacy more akin to a blood tests than a breath test.

“That was the big question: is it more like blood, is it more like breath? They said it’s more like blood,” said Koewler, an attorney at the Ramsay Law Firm. “What the Minnesota Supreme Court said today was the legislature was trying to punish something it had no right to punish.”

After years of uncertainty, the constitutionality of test-refusal laws is now clear: breath tests do not require warrants so drivers can be charged with a crime for refusing; blood and urine tests require warrants.
However, police do not need warrants when drivers consent to the tests.

“Of course, if someone wants to take the test, they can always freely and voluntarily consent,” said Koewler.

Koewler told Fox 9 he expects lawyers to challenge the convictions of drivers for refusing to submit to urine tests.

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