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Constitutionality of Minnesota's implied consent law questioned

Details and evidence related to DUI and DWI arrests are critical to both the prosecution's and defense's case. An individual's blood alcohol content level or BAC is of particular importance as is the method by which a BAC was obtained and measured. When it comes to criminal defense, freedoms and privileges afforded to individuals under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are often cited.

The Fourth Amendment primarily relates to an individual's right to protection from unlawful search and seizure by police officers and other law enforcement and government officials. The Fourth Amendment requires that, without consent, a police officer must obtain a warrant prior to entering and searching an individual's home, property, car or searching their person.

Upon stopping an individual for suspected DUI or DWI, a police officer will take steps to attempt to determine whether or not an individual is under the influence of a substance. A major part of this process involves an individual providing a breath, blood or urine sample to measure a BAC level.

While the validity of breathalyzer tests and other methods of determining a BAC have been argued for years, recent arguments now question the legality of these tests as they relate to Minnesota's implied consent law. Under the state's implied consent law, individuals who refuse to submit to some form of a BAC test are subject to additional criminal charges, penalties and suspension or revocation of their driver's license.

Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota raised concerns about the constitutionality of Minnesota's implied consent law. The ACLU-MN has filed a brief in a case that will be heard by the state's Supreme Court, in which members of the organization contend that the law violates the Fourth Amendment. In the brief, ACLU-MN members reason that, much like prior to entering an individual's home, a police officer should also be required to obtain a search warrant prior to an individual submitting to a breath, blood or urine test.

The ruling in this matter may impact the outcome of many DUI and DWI cases in Minnesota. We'll continue to provide updates about this issue as they become available.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, "ACLU Objects to Minnesota law criminalizing refusal of alcohol level tests," Jana Kooren, June 11, 2014

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