Stearns County to require search warrants for those who refuse blood alcohol testing

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A new Stearns County policy is changing the way police get blood samples from suspected drunken drivers who refuse blood alcohol testing, KSTP-TV reports.

Taking cue from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Missouri, Stearns County says law enforcement officers will have to get search warrants to obtain blood samples from suspected drunken drivers.

It's a big change to the implied consent advisory officers have read to suspected drunken drivers since the 1960s which states, "Refusal to take a test is a crime."

The blog CrimLaw has a summary of the Missouri ruling, stating, "the drawing of blood is a 4th Amendment matter and the 4th Amendment is not nullified by implied consent."

According to KSTP, officers looking to obtain a warrant will type up a report in their squad car and send it to a judge -- who in turn will have to sign-off on it in person or send a fax.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis says the new policy will begin at the end of the month, saying, "Rather than have a critical piece of evidence thrown out, we're going to get the warrant."

KSTP reached out to Ramsey, Hennepin and Washington counties about following Stearns County's lead, but so far, none are planning a change.

A representative of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association says a pending state Supreme Court case could clear up confusion about DWI laws.

Judges will hear arguments on the case out of Ramsey County next month. The Pioneer Press reports that the case under review involves a 40-year-old man from Prior Lake who consented to a blood alcohol test after appearing intoxicated after being pulled over by a Minnesota State Trooper, who saw sparks flying under the man's vehicle.

The man claims the blood alcohol test was coerced and as a result, is invalid.

As for Stearns County, the mayor says in the interim that he wants to continue to keep the roads safe from drunken drunken drivers, and in order to do that, they will have to go by procedure.

See KSTP's report below.

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