There has been a lot of argument over the legality of blood alcohol content testing and the constitutionality of forcing a person to submit to invasive testing. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable search and seizure, which is a search or seizure done without a warrant. This has brought about a lot of questions regarding warrantless BAC testing and whether or not they violate constitutional rights.
A person is allowed to consent to warrantless searches by police, but police cannot conduct warrantless searches without the person’s consent. However, in Minnesota it is said that every person who has obtained a driver’s license and is driving on Minnesota roads is thought to have given their “implied consent” to take blood alcohol testing when suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This makes refusal against the law and this refusal can result in a number of different penalties, such as prosecution of test refusal as a separate crime and revocation of the driver’s license for at least one year. Furthermore, the warrant requirement has other exceptions and this has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The McNeely case is the most highly cited case regarding this. It has been historically found that officers can conduct blood alcohol testing without a warrant if they suspect the driver is driving under the influence. However, the Supreme Court ruled that whether or not officers can conduct a warrantless search depends on whether or not a warrant could have been obtained before the alcohol evidence was degraded in the defendant’s system. The court determined that this could only be determined by examining the different facts in each case.
In the Missouri v. McNeely case, Missouri argued that an exception to the Fourth Amendment existed because alcohol evidence dissipates over time. In their argument, this degradation allows warrantless gathering of evidence under the Fourth Amendment’s “exigency exception.” The Supreme Court disagreed with this argument.
The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this very thing in the Minnesota v. Brooks case. It had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court after McNeely. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals received the case back from the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling against Brooks because of the McNeely decision. The Minnesota Supreme Court then took the case away from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Minnesota Supreme Court utilized “accelerated review” and heard oral arguments on the Brooks case on September 11. An opinion on the matter has yet to be issued, but is expected in the coming months. An attorney in the matter argued that a warrant should have to be obtained, as a Minnesota DWI investigation should be conducted like any criminal investigation.
It is believed that the Brooks opinion will be another step toward resolving the complex question of whether or not warrants should be required to determine blood alcohol content. The reason why it has been such an issue recently is because any evidence that is gathered as the result of a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights cannot be presented in court as evidence.