As citizens of the United States, two of our most important constitutional rights are the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being made to confess or admit guilt to a crime that an individual allegedly committed. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from being searched by police who don’t have a warrant or probable cause.
The Johnson v. Minnesota Decision
The recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. Minnesota heightens these protections for those who refuse to submit to a blood or urine test when requested by police. Below is a discussion of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision and how it could impact those charged with or convicted of test refusal in Minnesota.
Until recently, officers were not required to secure a search warrant before requiring an individual submit to a blood or urine test after being stopped for a DWI. Thus, if an individual refused to submit to these tests, he could be charged not only with a DWI, but also the more serious crime of test refusal.
However, the Minnesota Supreme Court’s recent decision in Johnson v. Minnesota determined that, absent a warrant or special circumstance, requiring an individual submit to a blood or urine test violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.
The Birchfield Rule
In light of this new law, officers will be required to comply the Birchfield rule when exercising stops based on the suspicion that an individual is driving while intoxicated. This rule provides that officers can only require an individual to submit to a blood or urine test after they secure a search warrant or if there is an “exigent circumstance,” a situation that requires immediate action that justifies a warrantless search or seizure. If no special circumstance is present, an individual can now legally refuse to submit to a blood or alcohol test until the officer secures a search warrant. In other words, refusal to take a blood or urine test can no longer be criminally prosecuted in Minnesota.
The Johnson v. Minnesota decision will impact not only those who refuse to submit to blood or urine tests in the future, but also could impact individuals who were convicted of test refusal in the past. Although the decision does not automatically reverse past convictions of test refusal, courts can apply the Birchfield rule on a case-by-case basis to determine whether an individual’s past test refusal conviction was unconstitutional.
Breath Test Refusal
While Minnesotans can now refuse to submit to blood and urine tests absent a valid search warrant or exception to the warrant requirement, it is still a crime to refuse to submit to a breath test. Thus, an individual can still be criminally prosecuted for refusing a breath test.
If you or someone you know is charged with or convicted of test refusal, contact a criminal defense attorney to help you determine if the test refusal was constitutional.