"Consent to Search" To Breath Test Case Granted Review in the Wake of Brooks

Posted On July 28, 2014 by Daniel Koewler

Six months ago the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its decision in State v. Brooks where it instructed every Minnesota court to analyze the "totality of the circumstances| surrounding each and every DWI arrest to determine if a given driver freely consented to a blood, breath, or urine test . . . or if they were coerced into taking that test by the words and actions of law enforcement.Minnesota's judges began weighing the facts of every DWI arrest, and concluded that drivers were being coerced into submitting to testing, not freely and voluntarily submitting, and as a result these judges threw the test results out of court. Shortly thereafter, the Minnesota Court of Appeals stepped in, and began placing its own interpretation on what it means to |consent| to a DWI test.

Now, six months after Brooks, the Minnesota Supreme Court has granted review in another DWI appeal, giving themselves the opportunity to clarify exactly what the standard for consent is in Minnesota.

The case under review is State v. Lindquist, and it addresses two issues. The first is whether government attorneys can rely upon a |Good Faith Exception| to the warrant requirement (which was precisely the position advocated by Justice Stras in his concurring opinion in Brooks) when it comes to determining whether a DWI suspect consented to a blood, breath, or urine test.

To put it another way, if the arresting officer honestly thought that the law permitted him to tell a handcuffed, detained driver that he was required by law to submit to testing, should the government be able punish that driver even if a court later determines that he was coerced into the act of testing? It's a question that the Court of Appeals refused to answer, believing that such a radical change to how Minnesota has traditionally upheld the Constitution can only be handled by the highest court in Minnesota â?? the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The other issue presented in Lindquist is the (relatively) straightforward question of whether or not this particular driver consented to a DWI test, or whether he was coerced. This case presents different facts than the unique situation the court faced in Brooks, and as the facts in Lindquist are far more . . . typical . . . than the facts in Brooks (a serial felony offender who was extremely flippant and had an attorney in all of his cases) review of the Lindquist case will likely bring a lot more clarity and guidance as to when a driver's |consent| is actually valid.

One thing is for certain: the Minnesota Supreme Court's rapid decision to review another DWI consent case assures us the |consent/coercion| fight is alive and well, and will be for the foreseeable future. But there are also questions: will Minnesota soon have a |good faith exception| that could put a serious damper on defense attorney's ability to uphold their client's constitutional rights? Will the Court tighten down on situations where drivers can be considered to have been coerced (the Court of Appeals approach) or will the Court loosen the reigns and allow district court judges â?? who are in the best position to weigh evidence and testimony â?? to look at each case individually, and truly decide each case under the case-specific |totality of the circumstances?| We've got some thoughts, and we'll be sharing them soon . . . stay tuned.