In 2016, Minnesota’s implied consent laws went before the United States Supreme Court in the case Bernard v. Minnesota. In short, the Supreme Court was asked to determine whether implied consent to breath tests and blood tests violated an individual’s constitutional rights.

What Is Implied Consent?

Under Minnesota’s implied consent laws, Minn. Stat. § 169A.51:

(a) Any person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state or on any boundary water of this state consents, subject to the provisions of sections 169A.50 to 169A.53 (implied consent law), and section 169A.20 (driving while impaired), to a chemical test of that person’s blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, a controlled substance or its metabolite, or a hazardous substance.

In sum, by making the choice to drive in Minnesota, you agree implicitly to submit to any breath, blood or urine tests at the request of a police officer.

Bernard v. Minnesota: The Outcome

At question in Bernard was whether the State of Minnesota (and the State of North Dakota, as this was a joined case) could arrest and charge someone with the crime of refusing to submit to a breath test or blood test. The Supreme Court held:

  • It is not unconstitutional to require a breath test without a warrant. The majority opinion stated, “Because the impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great, the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving.”
  • It is unconstitutional to require a blood test without a warrant. The Court was moved to find a blood test to be an entirely different matter, as “it is significantly more intrusive than blowing into a tube.”

What the Results Mean for Minnesota Drivers

If you are ever pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, know this. If the officer who pulled you over requests a:

  • Breath test – You must comply or face being charged with refusal to comply with Minnesota’s implied consent laws. This charge is
  • Blood test – You may say you will submit to a blood test only with a valid warrant.
  • Urine test – The constitutionality of urine tests is was not in question before the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, this still stands in the same vein that breath tests do, so failure to submit may lead to the same charges as failure to submit to a breath test.

If you consent to a test of any kind, there is no taking that back unless you have valid due process concerns. As always, it is best to exercise your right to call an attorney after you are arrested and before you submit to any test. If you do not yet have a lawyer, our experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyers are here to help.

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