Minnesota Supreme Court Holding: Ongoing Constitutional Vitality of DWI Test Refusal Law Now in Question

Posted On September 02, 2010 by Daniel Koewler

The Chief Justice for the Supreme Court penned an incredibly articulate and devastating attack against Minnesota's test refusal law today. In the case of State v. Larson, the Court held that:

"Larson also argues that his due process right to a fair trial was violated because the State was allowed to introduce evidence that he had refused to submit to voluntary . . . testing, and that the State used his refusal as evidence of his guilt. It is uncontested that Larson refused to allow the police to take a . . . sample . . . until the police produced a warrant. At trial, the district court ruled, over Larson's objection, that Larson's refusal to submit voluntarily to . . . testing could come before the jury. The court acknowledged that, while Larson "had that right to refuse to cooperate,| he did not see that |any constitutional rights of [Larson's] are violated by that fact being told to the jury.| This ruling was erroneous. See Jones, 753 N.W.2d at 687 (|It is a violation of the defendant's right to due process for a prosecutor to comment on a defendant's failure to consent to a warrantless search.|)." (Emphasis added)

I've never read a more damning attack against Minnesota's DWI test refusal law.

There is one problem: the above quote doesn't refer to blood, urine, or breath samples for alcohol concentration - it refers to blood samples for DNA testing. Thus, the legal conclusion that our current test refusal law is unconstitutional can be craftily avoided by simply invoking the DWI exception to the Constitution.

We'll be bringing the Larson case to the attention of every judge that is presiding over a test refusal case, and it will be very, very interesting to see how they can |distinguish| (legalese for |ignore) this case from the line of cases mysteriously holding that charging someone for test refusal is constitutional.