No warrant needed: Ruling OKs arrest if you refuse drunk driving test

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The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the state’s “implied consent” law that gives police the right to arrest a driver for refusing to be tested for intoxication.

The court Wednesday upheld an earlier appeals court ruling which basically said a law enforcement officer does not actually need to get a warrant to conduct a DWI test on a driver if the officer has probable cause to obtain one, according to FOX9.

The 5-2 opinion (which you can read here) came in the case of William Bernard Jr., who was charged in August 2012 with two felony counts of refusing to submit to a sobriety test.

South St. Paul police arrested him at a public boat ramp after witnesses said he was the driver of a truck that had gotten stuck while trying to pull a boat out of the water. Bernard denied being the driver, but he was holding the keys in his hand and smelled strongly of alcohol.

Bernard refused to take a breath test to determine his blood alcohol content. Police charged him with DWI under Minnesota's “implied consent law,” which requires a driver to either submit to testing when stopped for a suspected DWI or face criminal charges that are often harsher. Drivers grant that consent when they get a license.

A district court judge dismissed the charge against Bernard, saying the officers should have gotten a search warrant that would have forced Bernard to take the test. But the Appeals Court overturned that decision in March.

Police want the right to test a driver without a warrant because the alcohol in the person’s system could dissipate by the time a search warrant was obtained.

The ruling appears to conflict with a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said police must obtain a warrant, under most circumstances, if the driver refuses a breathalyzer test.

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