Thompson Takes Effect - Judge Throws Out Urine Test Report

Posted On January 11, 2016

It has been 24 years since the Minnesota legislature took away Fourth Amendment protection for drivers suspected of driving while impaired. Twenty-four years of unconstitutional prosecutions and unconstitutional punishments that could have been avoided by simply following the Constitution.

Finally, the long-overdue constitutional course correction has arrived.

On December 31, 2015, while the ink was still drying on the Minnesota Court of Appeals' opinion in State v. Thompson, a district court judge relied on Thompson to suppress the urine test report in our client's case. The Hennepin County Judge wrote:

This Court finds, on the basis of the Thompson decision, that the Advisory read to Defendant misinformed her that she might be prosecuted for refusing a urine test. â?¦ [therefore] the Court finds that Defendant did not voluntarily consent to the urine test.

[T]he State is also unable to rely on the good-faith exception â?¦ since Defendant specifically asked for a warrant as a condition of her consent, and none was obtained. The Minnesota implied consent law does not authorize the administration of a chemical test without consent.

Hallelujah. It is no longer a crime to exercise your Fourth Amendment right to a search warrant before allowing the government to collect and test your blood or urine. Agreeing to submit to a chemical test only if and when the police first obtain a search warrant is NOT free and voluntary consent to search.

Drivers now have the same Fourth Amendment protection guaranteed by the Constitution to all individuals suspected of committing a crime. When the police demand your blood or urine, you have the right to demand a warrant without fear of criminal punishment for doing so.

This is a huge victory.

However, there is still one glaring constitutional issue to be resolved. Even after Thompson and Trahan, Minnesota still does not provide equal Fourth Amendment protection to all drivers. According to five of the seven justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court, the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to chemical testing of breath.

This means that under Minnesota's Implied Consent Law, the police can circumvent the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement by choosing to require breath instead of blood or urine. A driver can refuse blood or urine testing without committing a crime. That same driver cannot refuse breath testing. Even a driver's physical inability to provide enough air when the officer says "blow" is a crime.

Fortunately, SCOTUS has the opportunity to remind Minnesota that breath testing is a search, and to restore full Fourth Amendment protection to drivers in Minnesota, when it issues its opinion in State v. Bernard sometime in June.