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Exclusionary Rule - Fourth Amendment

Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court took a giant step backwards in its Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in State v. Lindquist. After not adopting the good-faith exception[1] nearly two years ago in State v. Brooks, the Court in Lindquist decided to change course and swallow the exclusionary rule by adopting it.[2] The majority in Lindquist decided the exclusionary rule[3] neither applies to Fourth Amendment violations under the United States Constitution, nor does it apply to the generally more protective Minnesota Constitution, when police officers reasonably rely on binding appellate precedent.

On February 19, 2011, Lindquist drove her vehicle off the road in Aitkin County, Minnesota. After officers placed her under arrest on suspicion of DWI and Criminal Vehicular Operation, they transported her to the hospital for a blood draw to secure evidence of her blood alcohol concentration. With neither consent, nor a warrant, the officers drew Lindquist’s blood. The officers also did not read the Minnesota implied consent advisory prior to the blood draw. Later at trial, a jury acquitted her on the Criminal Vehicular Operation charges, but convicted her on both counts of Third Degree DWI. The date of offense, trial, and appeal to the court of appeals all predated United States Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely.[4] Therefore, the prosecution argued that law enforcement was relying in good faith on binding precedent when they obtained Lindquist’s blood without consent or a warrant.  

In adopting the good-faith exception, the majority in Lindquist believes the deterrent benefit of suppressing the test result, obtained without a warrant and in violation of the Fourth Amendment, does not outweigh the cost to society by not imposing any consequences on drunk drivers. This ends-justify-the-means-argument usually falls on deaf ears in Minnesota.[5] The purpose of exclusionary rule is not to punish individual officers or to suppress the truth, but rather to enforce the Fourth Amendment.

Minnesota courts often provide broader protection than the federal courts and generally refuse to adopt the good-faith exception.[6] In State v. Smith, however, the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not apply the exclusionary rule when officers reasonably relied on a window-tint statute to stop a vehicle.[7] The court of appeals assumed that the statute was unconstitutional, but determined law enforcement acted in good faith when enforcing it. The court outlined a five-part test to determine whether the exclusionary rule should apply. Part two states that the exclusionary rule is not appropriate when: “the legislation in question did not authorize a warrantless search in the gathering of evidence”. This is where Smith is distinguishable from the majority’s analysis in Lindquist. Minnesota’s Implied Consent law does authorize a warrantless search, whereas the statute in Smith merely proscribed excessively tinted windows.

When the court uses the good-faith exception, it does so as a tool of last resort. It instructs citizens that there is no other legal basis to find against them. The courts give aggrieved citizens a place to go when their constitutional rights are violated. Seeking justice through the judicial system is the avenue our founders have paved for us. Good faith reliance on an unconstitutional law, however, is not justice at all. “[W]ithout the exclusionary rule, the Fourth Amendment essentially grants a right with no remedy.”[8]

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense and DWI defense lawyer in St Paul MN. He fights for his clients’ constitutional rights across the state of Minnesota. He was named a “Ten Best” DWI Attorney in the state of Minnesota for Client Satisfaction; and has a Lead Counsel Rating in Drunk Driving Defense; and helps good people in unfortunate situations. 

[1] The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule exists when law enforcement has a reasonable belief that they are acting properly according to legal authority. Because the officers were acting in good faith, evidence that would be otherwise inadmissible is then admissible. For example, if a police officer has a search warrant they believe to be valid and the warrant is later found not to be, then applying the good faith exception would allow the evidence obtained from the search warrant to be admissible in court.

[2] Justice Breyer’s dissent in Davis v. United States stated: “if the Court means what it now says, if it would place determinative weight upon the culpability of an individual officer’s conduct, and if it would apply the exclusionary rule only where a Fourth Amendment violation was “deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent,” then the “good faith” exception will swallow the exclusionary rule. ___ U.S.___, 131 S.Ct. 2419, 2439 (2011).

[3] The exclusionary rule prevents the prosecution from using illegally obtained evidence.

[4] Missouri v. McNeely held that the dissipation of alcohol in the blood does not create a single-factor exigency justifying a warrantless blood draw of suspected drunk drivers. This holding abrogated the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decisions in State v. Shriner and State v. Netland. In Shriner, the Court held “[t]he rapid, natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood creates single-factor exigent circumstances that will justify the police taking a warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw from a defendant, provided that the police have probable cause to believe that defendant committed criminal vehicular operation.” 751 N.W.2d 538, 545 (Minn. 2008). Netland extended the same analysis to any DWI case. 762 N.W.2d 202, 213 (Minn. 2009).

[5] See State v. Henning, 666 N.W.2d 379, 386 (Minn. 2003) (stating “[w]e have never before simply allowed the ends to justify the means when the means void our citizens’ constitutional protections”).

[6] See State v. Jackson, 742 N.W.2d 163, 180 (Minn. 2007) (citing four different Minnesota Supreme Court decisions not adopting the good faith exception to defective warrants).

[7] 652 N.W.2d 546, 550–51 (Minn. Ct. App. 2002).

[8] Hudson v. Michigan, 126 S.Ct. 2159, 2172–73 (2006) (Breyer, J., dissenting).

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