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Brooks, McNeely & Minnesota's DWI Laws

STATE OF MINNESOTA V. BROOKS: MINNESOTA'S DWI LAWS

Soon the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments and make a ruling on a case called Minnesota v. Brooks. This case involves a man who was required to give a urine sample under Minnesota's Implied Consent laws. The facts are as follows:

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 31, 2009 police in Shakopee stopped a man named Wesley Brooks. Because Brooks appeared intoxicated, the officer requested that he take a urine test to which Brooks consented. The test results showed a .14 alcohol concentration and an ensuing inventory search of Brooks' car led to the discovery of a glass pipe and 5.1 grams of marijuana. Brooks was charged with first-degree DWI, possessing marijuana in a motor vehicle, possessing drug paraphernalia, driving after cancellation, and operating a vehicle without a valid driver's license.[1]

Six months later Brooks was discovered by Prior Lake police sitting, unconscious in the driver's seat of his vehicle while the engine was running, with the gear shift in drive and his foot resting on the brake pedal. Police officers woke Brooks and he appeared intoxicated. A urine test was again requested, Brooks consented and the test showed a .15 alcohol concentration. The police also found marijuana and a white powdery substance in his car. Brooks was charged with first-degree DWI, fourth-degree assault of a peace officer (for flicking his urine at the police), possessing a controlled substance, possessing marijuana in a motor vehicle, possessing an open bottle of alcohol in a motor vehicle, and driving after license cancellation.[2]

Again in January 2010, Brooks was stopped by police and this time given a breathalyzer test. He blew a .21 and was arrested for driving while impaired. After being transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center, Brooks consented to and was given a blood test which revealed an alcohol concentration of .16.[3]

The police officers involved in these stops and tests never attempted to obtain search warrants because of Minnesota's implied-consent law.[4] Although individuals are protected by the Fourth Amendment from warrantless searches like the breath, urine and blood tests in this case, that protection can be waived by an individual's consent. Minnesota's Implied-consent law provides that "any person who drives . . . a motor vehicle within this state . . . consents . . . to a chemical test of that person's blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol."[5] Under this law, "refusal to take a test" is an additional, more serious crime.[6]

Furthermore, Minnesota courts have long held that breath, urine and blood tests without a warrant are justified by the single-factor exigency of the dissipation of alcohol."[7] This means that Minnesota courts consider the natural dissipation of alcohol from the body to be an emergency circumstance which authorizes police to bypass the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

Based on this interpretation of the law, Minnesota Courts upheld Brooks' alcohol content tests and found that he had voluntarily consented to waiver of his Fourth Amendment Rights under the implied-consent law. Brooks then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

STATE OF MISSOURI V. MCNEELY :

CHANGING MINNESOTA'S DWI LAWS

In the meantime, a similar case called State of Missouri v. McNeely was considering by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision in that case significantly impacted Minnesota's DWI laws, potentially impacting them even more in the near future.

In that case, Tyler McNeely was stopped by a Missouri police officer for speeding and crossing the centerline. He was subsequently arrested and taken to a hospital by the police for a blood alcohol concentration test and he tested above the legal limit. The officer in McNeely never attempted to obtain a warrant and McNeely moved to suppress the evidence of his blood test during his trial claiming that "taking his blood without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights."[8] His case made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and they agreed with his argument.

The court ruled that, "in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant."[9] Although the Supreme Court only specifically cites to blood tests in McNeely, breath and urine tests are often treated similarly.[10] McNeely directly overrules current Minnesota law and will require change in Minnesota. How much change has not yet been determined.

BROOKS AND THE MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT

After the U.S. Supreme Court decided McNeely, instead of also deciding Brooks, the court remanded Brooks to be decided by the Minnesota Supreme Court in accordance with the new McNeely rule. Currently, the Minnesota Supreme Court is considering the issue of whether McNeelyapplies to warrantless breath and urine tests as well as blood. If the court determines that it does, those tests that were taken without a warrant will likely be thrown out by the court resulting in better outcomes for those charged with DWIs in Minnesota. On behalf of our clients facing DWI charges we argue that McNeely does apply to all tests including breath, urine and blood and that warrantless testing constitutes a violation of our clients' constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. These arguments offer our clients a more favorable bargaining position and an opportunity to defend their rights as U.S. citizens.

If you are facing a DWI charge or are stopped by the police, call us, Caplan & Tamburino at (612) 444-5020. We will offer sound legal advice and an opportunity for you to guarantee that your constitutional rights are being protected.

[1] State v. Brooks, A11-1042, 2012 WL 1570064 (Minn. Ct. App. May 7, 2012), review denied (July 17, 2012), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 133 S. Ct. 1996 (U.S. 2013)

[2] State v. Brooks, A11-1042, 2012 WL 1570064 (Minn. Ct. App. May 7, 2012), review denied (July 17, 2012), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 133 S. Ct. 1996 (U.S. 2013)

[3] State v. Brooks, A11-1043, 2012 WL 1914073 (Minn. Ct. App. May 29, 2012), review denied (July 17, 2012), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 133 S. Ct. 1996 (U.S. 2013)

[4] Id.

[5] Minn. Stat § 169A.51, subd. 1(a).

[6] Id. at subd. 2(1)-(2).

[7] State v. Netland, 762 N.W.2d 202, 212 (Minn. 2009).

[8] Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 1554 (2013).

[9] Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 1568 (2013).

[10] Skinner v. Ry. Labor Executives' Ass'n, 489 U.S. 602, 616 (1989); see also Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 767-768 (1966).

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