Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Minnesota DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The DWI Case Of The Week Is   Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. _ (Decided April 17, 2013) a United States Supreme Court case which stands for the proposition that the dissipation of alcohol in the body does not create a per se exception to the warrant requirement.

In McNeely, the Defendant was arrested for DWI and was taken to the hospital for blood testing.  Upon arrival at the hospital, the officer asked Mr. McNeely if he would consent to a blood test.  When Mr. McNeely refused to submit to testing, the officer directed a lab technician to take the blood sample.  The officer did not attempt to first obtain a search warrant to authorize the bodily search.

The Missouri Supreme Court held that the failure to attempt to seek a warrant was fatal to the State's case stating that, "the courts must engage in a totality of the circumstances analysis when determining whether exigency permits a nonconsensual, warrantless blood draw".

The State of Missouri then appealed to the United States Supreme Court arguing that  alcohol in the blood begins to dissipate as soon as its consumption is stopped and that any delay in obtaining a blood sample will sacrifice the accuracy of the test result.  The State of Missouri wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a per se rule that the dissipation of alcohol creates an exigency that dispenses with the need to obtain a search warrant.

The United States Supreme Court in McNeely, however, declined to adopt the per se rule requested by the State and held instead that the lower courts must utilize the "totality of the circumstances test" to determine if a warrant was properly not obtained.  The Supreme Court pointed out that in this day of telephonic warrants, the delay necessitated by contacting a magistrate to obtain said warrant is minimal and is not such a burdensome requirement that it may be dispensed with in all cases.

The Supreme Court's ruling in McNeely has huge implications for Minnesota.  In the State of Minnesota, when a person is arrested for DWI, his or her consent to submit to testing is coerced.  That is, when suspects are arrested for DWI, they are told that if they refuse to submit to testing, they will be charged with a crime.  One's consent to search is not "voluntary" if it is being obtained by threat of prosecution.  Since the consent to testing is not voluntary, the State must now show in each case that it could not obtain a search warrant before seeking to obtain the test!  How are the police going to be able to show they could not obtain a warrant when up until April 17, 2013 they were not even trying to get said warrant?

Conclusion: It's a whole new ball game in DWI defense!