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MN DWI Update

Undoubtedly, the hottest topic of discussion in DWI law across Minnesota and much of the nation is Bernard v. Minnesota.[1] Consolidated with Birchfield v. North Dakota and Beyund v. Levi, the United States Supreme Court just set Bernard’s oral argument for April 20, 2016. SCOTUS squeezed Bernard in as one of Its last remaining cases this term, while putting off five remaining cases for Its next term starting in October. Getting a decision sooner rather than later in Bernard should settle whether Minnesota’s current DWI refusal law – as it applies to breath tests – is constitutional.

What happens to DWI cases while we await SCOTUS’s decision in Bernard? We previously blogged about this topic here. Cases are stepping in line with our three predictions: litigate every DWI case, staying proceedings, and offering to withdraw guilty pleas later if Bernard comes down in favor of the defense. Staying proceedings seems like the most obvious choice with oral arguments set and a decision imminent. But some district courts opt for judicial efficiency rather than constitutional guidance from the nation’s highest court; and refuse to continue, stay, or wait for the Bernard decision. Instead many district courts are putting the onus on the defendant to litigate the issue and appeal its decision, if they disagree.

State v. Thompson

Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Supreme Court granted review of State v. Thompson.[2] This comes as no surprise to anyone, because the Minnesota Supreme Court also granted review of State v. Trahan.[3] In striking down Minnesota’s DWI-Refusal law as it applies to urine tests, the court of appeals’ reasoning in Thompson followed the same vein as its decision in Trahan. It would be an incredible surprise to everyone, if the Minnesota Supreme Court decided these two cases differently.

In Minnesota, there are only three types of evidentiary tests an officer can ask you to take upon arrest for DWI: breath, blood, and urine. The constitutionality of refusing to submit to any one of those tests is now pending a decision from a supreme court. Keeping tabs on the current law and consulting with a criminal defense lawyer who is up to speed on this area of law is paramount.

Robert H. Ambrose is a DWI lawyer and criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Attorney Ambrose is a member of the National College of DUI / DWI Defense; and is one of the “Ten Best” DWI Attorneys for Client Satisfaction in Minnesota. DWI lawyer St. Paul; St. Paul criminal defense lawyer; and Minneapolis DWI lawyer.

[1] Bernard v. Minnesota is a case challenging the constitutionality of Minnesota’s DWI-Refusal law. The basis of Bernard’s argument is the state may not criminalize refusing to consent to a warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment. To read more about the United States Supreme Court granting review of Bernard v. Minnesota, click here. For our discussion about why the Court granted Bernard’s review, click here.

[2] In State v. Thompson, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined Minnesota’s DWI-Refusal law as it applies to refusing a urine test is unconstitutional. For more about the decision, read our blog here.

[3] In Trahan, the Minnesota Supreme Court found Minnesota’s DWI-Refusal law as it applies to blood tests is unconstitutional. Read our blog here to learn more about the decision.

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