Supreme Court ruling could affect Minn. DWI cases

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A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires police, in most cases, to obtain a warrant before subjecting a suspected drunk driver to a blood test could toss out thousands of pending DWI cases in Minnesota.

The decision stems from a case in Missouri, where Tyler McNeely was pulled over after he was spotted driving erratically by a state trooper, NPR reported.

McNeely refused a breath test, so the officer drove him to a local hospital and ordered a blood test to measure his blood-alcohol content. The officer did not seek a warrant in the interest of time--as alcohol dissipates from the body, each passing moment means evidence is being lost.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court disagreed with this practice, noting that in most circumstances there is adequate time to get a warrant with technological advancements.

In Minnesota, blood tests make up less than 20 percent of DWI cases. Most arrests occur after a breathalyzer test.

The Minnesota State Patrol tells WCCO that the ruling would only affect involuntary blood tests.

Defense attorneys disagree.

Under the state's implied consent law, a suspected drunk driver can be charged with a crime if a blood, breath or urine test is refused.

“It’s now unconstitutional to threaten a driver with criminal charges in order to obtain their consent,” DWI defense attorney Charles Ramsay told the Star Tribune. Ramsay believes the ruling means that all pending DWI cases in Minnesota should be thrown out.

An email from the Minnesota County Attorneys Association says police and prosecutors don't need to make any immediate changes.

“It’s complicated and yet it isn’t, but this thing will play out for years. What impact it might have on implied consent, who knows,” MCAA executive director John Kingrey said to the newspaper.

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