Supreme Court to driver: Urine trouble

The Minnesota Supreme Court today upheld a man’s conviction for drunk driving, rejecting the man’s claim that a urine sample is unreliable proof.

Herman Tanksley Jr., who was arrested after an accident on I-35W in 2009, claimed that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension testing of so-called “first-void urine samples” is unreliable, inaccurate, “and not generally accepted in the scientific community because it does not require an individual to empty his or her bladder, wait a certain period of time, and then provide a second sample for testing purposes.” The problem with testing first-void urine samples, according to Tanksley, is that, because such samples contain urine that has ‘pooled’ in an individual’s bladder over time, alcohol concentration levels obtained from the tests may not be indicative of the driver’s actual blood alcohol content, the standard for determining whether someone is drunk.

A lower court rejected Tanksley’s request for a hearing on the issue and sentenced him to 45 days in jail.

Today the state’s Supreme Court said Minnesota doesn’t need a urine test to prove a driver is drunk; it’s just one of three ways the law provides for determining blood alcohol level.

“Under Tanksley’s theory” Justice David Stras wrote,” the State would be required to prove, in effect, that an individual’s blood alcohol concentration is at or above 0.08 for all alcohol-concentration offenses, even if the individual’s urine alcohol concentration meets or exceeds 0.08. Yet … in defining the alcohol-concentration offense, the Legislature set forth three methods for proving alcohol concentration without expressing a preference for one method over another.”

Here’s the ruling.

  • Chris

    I’ve been cheerfully groaning about your headline all day, Bob. Thanks!