MN judges say again: Refusing DUI test can cost license

Minnesota’s implied consent law, which allows the commissioner of public safety to revoke your driver’s license if you refuse to submit to chemical testing for driving under the influence, has survived yet another constitutional challenge.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today ruled the law is constitutional, turning aside the appeal of a woman who smashed into parked cars in a Minnetonka parking lot in 2012, flunked a field sobriety test, but refused to take a breathalyzer test.

Later in the day, Rita Ann Stevens agreed to the test, but the equipment failed, she refused a blood test and couldn’t provide a urine sample. The police said she wasn’t making a good-faith effort to do so.

The state revoked her driver’s license, and Stevens appealed, arguing the law imposes a choice on driver’s to either relinquish the Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search or losing the license to drive.

“Stevens cannot show that the implied-consent statute authorizes a search that violates the Fourth Amendment because the implied-consent statute, by itself, does not authorize any search given the facts of this case,” Judge Matthew Johnson wrote in today’s opinion.

Contrary to its common title, the implied-consent statute does not authorize a warrantless search of a person’s blood, breath, or urine by implying, as a matter of law, that every licensed driver has consented to such a search. The supreme court made this clear in Brooks by stating, “we do not hold that Brooks consented because Minnesota law provides that anybody who drives in 12 Minnesota ‘consents . . . to a chemical test.”

He also said a licensed driver in Minnesota “has a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to enforcement of the state’s DWI laws.”

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  • MrE85

    It would be interesting to hear what the GOP’s endorsed candidate for the Supreme Court, Michelle MacDonald, thinks of this. She’s fighting her own DUI charge in court. She has an unusual (for a Republican) ally in the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed an amicus brief in another case challenging implied consent.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I think the penalty for DUI should be a near-lifelong revocation of driving privileges, but I have major problems with this whole thing.