Equal Protection and Due Process Violations in Minnesota DWI Law

As the veritable Justice Alan Page penned: “(Minnesota) court(s) apparently wish that we lived in a world without Missouri v. McNeely.” Such a strong shot fired at his fellow justices is true because ever since the United States Supreme Court issued its McNeely decision in 2013, Minnesota appellate courts have made every effort to essentially create a ‘DWI Exception’ to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

From finding valid consent in a scenario where an individual is threatened further and worse criminal penalties if they didn’t consent, to somehow believing extracting breath from an individual is a search incident to arrest, to even allowing into evidence a chemical test seized via an unconstitutional search under the good faith exception, the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment have seemed to eviscerate when it comes to enforcing this state’s DWI laws. But, recently, a glimmer of hope has appeared in the form of the State v. Trahan decision, which holds that drivers, in fact, have a constitutional right to refuse a blood test and cannot be criminally charged for doing so. This, of course, is being appealed. But, until the Minnesota Supreme Court hears and decides this case, an opportunity exists for DWI defendants.

With this Trahan decision, two legitimate constitutional arguments deserve your consideration if you are facing criminal DWI charges: equal protection and due process.

Succinctly, an equal protection argument exists because individuals in the same situation – i.e. suspected of violating Minnesota’s DWI laws – are being treated differently for no legitimate basis. A person requested to take a breath test cannot refuse the test (see State v. Bernard), whereas a person requested to submit to a blood test can legally refuse to do so without fear of facing different and more severe criminal and administrative penalties (State v. Trahan). A due process violation occurs because the implied consent advisory is inaccurate now following the Trahan decision.

North Star Criminal Defense is not shying away in raising these constitutional challenges for its clients. These are issues that must be pressed on your behalf until we finally get an answer on the constitutionality of Minnesota’s DWI law from the U.S. Supreme Court – which may be happening in the near future. Until then, we will continue working closely with our colleagues to re-establish the fundamental right to be free from warrantless searches guaranteed to us by the Fourth Amendment – even if some in the higher courts wish to ignore this.



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