Minnesota Requires Warrant for Blood Tests in DUI Cases
By: Chris Kramer
Getting blood drawn can be a traumatic experience for those who loathe needles-the very thought of getting shots makes many cringe. Most people, though, don't require a warrant for their blood to be drawn. Unless, that is, they're Minnesota residents under suspicion of DUI.
A Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last week that police officers cannot take blood samples from people suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) without a warrant, unless both probable cause and special circumstances are in evidence, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The decision reportedly came after the pretrial hearing of a woman arrested under suspicion of DUI. In that hearing, judges threw out blood evidence indicating illegal blood alcohol content (BAC) because police had obtained it without her permission, a move that her defense lawyer allegedly deemed "improper."
Because the woman was near a hospital, uninjured, and at no risk of having her BAC fall below the legal limit before a warrant could be obtained, the article reports, there were no "special" circumstances. The ruling indicates that police should have respected her Fourth Amendment rights.
In the woman's case, the evidence obtained from the blood sample was thrown out, and two charges were dropped, according to the Star-Tribune. In future cases, Minnesota police will be required to obtain permission or warrants before administering blood tests to DUI suspects.
Though the judges ultimately ruled in the woman's favor, the decision was not unanimous, sources say. According to the Tribune, Judge Bruce Willis, who penned the dissenting opinion, insists that this decision will create serious obstacles for police officers, requiring unnecessary amounts of extra legwork when they're investigating.
Willis apparently went so far as to call the warrant requirement an "impossible burden" for police to meet.
This ruling certainly raises important questions. Even the woman's defense attorney reportedly admitted that, because of her appearance of intoxication, there was "probable cause" to test her blood. But without her consent, he stipulated, the withdrawal should not have been done.
This is an extremely significant ruling for DUI cases. Sources indicate that some experts say the decision will more than likely be appealed. In the past, most courts have ruled that the appearance of intoxication ("reasonable suspicion" of drunkenness) is enough to validate a blood test.
In the meantime, however, Minnesota residents should be aware of their rights.