This morning, the Minnesota Supreme Court has issued its long-anticipated decision in the case of State v. Bernard . Defense attorneys (and a myriad of entities interested in preserving the Constitution) have been waiting with high hopes for a final determination as to whether the State of Minnesota can charge a driver with a crime for refusing a warrantless search. Our hopes have been dashed by the Supreme Court’s ill-reasoned and overly expansive interpretation of a 1973 United States Supreme Court decision addressing searches incident to arrest, United States v. Robinson , 414 U.S. 218 (1973). As a result, the Minnesota Supreme Court held, in a split decision, that Minnesota refusal law is constitutional because tests to ascertain the alcohol concentration of a driver suspected of DWI are valid searches incident to arrest.
The dissent captures the fundamental flaw in the majority opinion:
Although this should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the State’s increasingly Draconian interpretation of laws related to drunk drivers, it seems abhorrent that simply because a person is suspected of driving while intoxicated, they are not subject to the same constitutional protections warranted in any other type of crime.
The attorneys here at Caplan & Tamburino will continue to avidly fight for our client’s rights, regardless of the type of case.