Not So Fast! Will Minnesota Supreme Court Stop the Flow of Unscientific DWI Urine Alcohol Tests?

Posted On April 13, 2011 by Charles Ramsay

Many believed challenges to DWI alcohol urine testing were finished last December after the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a series of decisions. Recent orders issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court, however, provide hope for those accused of DWI based on a urine test.

In State v. Edstrom â?? a case with a shaky and dubious procedural posture â?? the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's finding that DWI urine alcohol testing is generally accepted by the scientific community.

The following week the court of appeals held in State v. Tanksley that the trial court erred by denying a Frye hearing in a urine test case, but â?? based on Edstrom â?? the court held the error harmless. The court also upheld the district court's suppression of expert testimony challenging the validity, reliability and accuracy of the urine test result.

Shortly thereafter the court of appeals again affirmed a trial court's decision prohibiting a driver from offering expert evidence on the reliability of urine testing to measure alcohol concentration in State v. Dixon. The court justified denying the driver his fundamental right to present a complete defense because, "Minnesota recognizes urine testing as a reliable method of measuring alcohol concentration.|

Minnesota Supreme Court Grants Review.

Last month the Minnesota Supreme Court accepted review of State v. Tanksley and State v. Dixon (the parties in Edstrom did not seek review; it appears that had they done so, it likely would have been granted).

In its order granting review of Dixon, the Supreme Court provided insight on at least one of the issues that it felt required review:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the petition of Matt Dixon, Jr., for further review be, and the same is, granted on the issue concerning exclusion of defense evidence challenging the reliability of urine testing, and all proceedings are stayed pending final disposition in State v. Tanksley, No. A10-392. The petition is denied on all remaining issues.

Judges across the state have denied drivers the right to tell the whole story to a jury: that urine testing is junk science. With the Minnesota Supreme Court reviewing the issue on appeal, we hope that will change.