Court: Minnesota cops need warrant before DWI urine tests


In a followup to an October decision that changes the way police officers enforce drunk driving laws, the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that warrantless urine tests are unconstitutional.

According to KSTP, the case started with the DWI arrest of Owatonna resident Ryan Thompson in 2012; he refused to take either a blood or a urine test and was charged with a count of second-degree test-refusal (on top of impaired driving charges).

The refusal charge stuck, even after the other charges against him were dropped, the station says.

Monday's decision reverses his conviction and clarifies that penalizing suspects for refusing such tests is not constitutional, the Associated Press notes.

This comes just a couple of months after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in a similar case that it is not a crime for a DWI suspect to refuse a warrantless blood test. Criminal charges for such refusals are now also unconstitutional in the state.

But what about breathalyzer tests? You can still be charged for refusing to take one if you're being arrested for impaired driving in Minnesota, per an appeals court ruling from early 2015. This seems to conflict with a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision which said police "generally" need a warrant to test the driver if he or she has refused to participate.

But warrantless breathalyzers are still legal under Minnesota's "implied consent" law, which states residents "consent" to such tests when they obtain a driver's license.

So why does Minnesota draw the line at blood and urine?

In the October decision which made warrantless blood tests unconstitutional, Minnesota appellate Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks noted that such tests represent a “serious intrusion into the human body.”

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