January 8, 2015

Minnesota Supreme Court Holds Oral Arguments Today Regarding Minnesota's DWI Laws

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Home > Fourth Amendment > Minnesota Supreme Court Holds Oral Arguments Today Regarding Minnesota's DWI LawsPosted on December 10, 2014 by Chuck Ramsay

Big things are about to happen at the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the most visible evidence is going on this morning in two cases: In State v. Larson, the Court will address whether Minnesota should adopt the "good-faith" exception to the rule that the State cannot use unconstitutionally obtained evidence against an individual in court. In State v. Lindquist, the Court will address the same issue, with the added wrinkle of determining if the McNeely decision was "retroactive" (applies to cases that came before the United States Supreme Court issued its decision). 

While many are eagerly awaiting the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision on Bernard (determining the constitutionality of making test refusal a criminal act), the Minnesota Supreme Court is quietly considering other cases as well, cases dealing with 1) Exigency; 2) this "Good Faith Exception"; and, 3) specific application of the McNeely decision in a variety of other cases.

If I was a betting man, here's what I'd predict: I expect the Court to simultaneously issue its decisions in the cases being argued today alongside the Bernard decision argued in September. That would set the stage for the Court to: 1) finally strike down the criminal refusal law as unconstitutional; 2) more carefully define what does and does not constitute "exigency" in the DWI context; and 3) adopt the good-faith exception.  

While recognizing the absurdity of the criminal test refusal law (which makes it a crime for citizens to refuse to waive their fundamental constitutional right against warrantless searches), the court will “save” pending cases by recognizing the good-faith exception. Drivers who were duped into “consenting” to DWI blood, breath or urine tests will be unable to avail themselves of the court’s recognition that police cannot obtain consent by threatening them with an unconstitutional law.  

Such a resolution would add a much needed touch of finality to the current state of confusion regarding Minnesota's DWI laws. From that point forward, the government could no longer charge drivers with the crime of test refusal (but they could still revoke their licenses and use the fact that they refused against them at trial). And in the same breath, it would clear the courts of the backlog of criminal cases building up as attorneys and judges wait for further guidance from the highest court in Minnesota.

This is not what I would like to see, this is just what I am predicting. Soon, we'll explain exactly why a "good faith exception" is anything but good, and how the best way to maintain a free society is to continue to attach real consequences to the government when someone's Constitutional rights are violated.

But today, if you have the time and the inclination, stop by the Minnesota Supreme Court and watch two oral arguments that are going to lead to some pretty groundbreaking decisions in the near future.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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