Police may collect urine without warrant, court says

Here’s a factoid you can use at your next dinner party, courtesy of the Minnesota Court of Appeals:

“The alcohol concentration of urine in the bladder can decrease from .081 to .079 in 15 minutes.”

This would be an important fact if you were, say, stopped for drunk driving and your blood alcohol level was barely over the standard by which Minnesota defines drunk driving.

In a ruling today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals provided quite an analysis of the biological method by which the body disposes of its alcohol, ruling that police can require a urine sample from suspected drunk drivers without needing a warrant to do so.

The Court ruled in the case of Kim Ellingson, who was charged with drunk driving after a breathalyzer showed her blood alcohol level was .09. In Minnesota, .08 is legally drunk. A subsequent urinalysis showed she was, indeed, drunk.

She lost her license but sued because the collection of her urine was an unreasonable search and seizure. The Court disagreed, saying, “… the rapid change in alcohol concentration through the body’s natural processes… justify the warrantless collection of a urine sample.”