Prior DWI test refusal charge? New law may provide way to reverse conviction
A recent Minnesota Court of Appeals case, Hagerman v. Minnesota, reversed a DWI test refusal conviction for being unconstitutional! The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the DWI context, administering a chemical test via breath, blood, or urine is a search.
For a chemical test to be valid, police must either obtain a warrant or the test request must be supported by an exception to the warrant requirement. Minnesota Law previously upheld warrantless testing in the DWI context under either the “exigent circumstances” exception or the “search incident to arrest” exception to a warrant requirement.
Since, the Supreme Court has invalided Minnesota’s “per se” exigency approach. Instead, exigency exceptions must be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the totality of the circumstances. In other words, there is not automatically an exigent circumstance in every DWI case. The Supreme Court also invalided the search-incident-to-arrest exception for both blood and urine testing.
Under the new law, states can make it a crime for a suspected drunk driver to refuse breath tests, but they cannot criminalize refusal to submit to a blood or urine test unless police have obtained a search warrant or the test request is supported by another exception to the warrant requirement.
This change to the law also applies retroactively, meaning prior DWI test refusal convictions for failing for submit to a blood or urine test when police did not have a warrant could be deemed unconstitutional; therefore, reversing the conviction.