Minnesota Court of Appeals Re-Interprets the Minnesota Implied Consent Statute

Posted On August 04, 2010 by Charles Ramsay

Yesterday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an incredibly troubling decision in the case of State v. McIlraith. In that case, the defendant was arrested for boating while intoxicated. He took an Intoxilyzer test that reported an alcohol concentration over a .08. He immediately attempted to exercise his right to have an independent test (we've won numerous cases after having our clients obtain an independent test). Six hours after being arrested, the defendant was finally allowed to submit a urine sample for independent analysis.

The defendant's attorney successfully suppressed the Intoxilyzer test result, which usually results in a victory. However, the State made a motion to use the Defendant's own independent test against him! The judge agreed that this was legal, and the Defendant suddenly found himself being prosecuted by evidence that he himself had obtained.

There is a lot about this case that is troubling. I won't even get into the absurdity of convicting someone of boating above a .08 alcohol concentration based on a urine test taken six hours after driving. What I do want to point out is that the Court, in upholding the admission of a defendant's independent test against the defendant, has turned independent testing into a double-edged sword.

We routinely tell all our clients to get an independent test - sometimes, it's the only way to challenge the validity and reliability of the "State's test.| However, with this new ruling, the Court has made it acceptable for the State to use our own investigative work against our own clients. Now, if we try to use an independent test result to question the validity of the State's test, the State gets a second bite at the apple. This seems to directly violate all sorts of bedrock Due Process principles: the right to present a complete defense, attorney-client privilege, the statutory right to obtain an independent test, and half a dozen others. Again, a very disturbing decision.

I have it on good authority that the attorney involved has every intention of appealing this decision, and I sincerely hope that the Supreme Court corrects this manifest error. In the meantime, the status of independent tests is very much up in the air.