Illegal to Refuse a Warrantless Search
State v. Bernard – Much Awaited…VERY Disappointing.
This morning, the Minnesota Supreme Court released its opinion in the much anticipated case of State v. Bernard. Many were hoping that the court would finally sort out the mess that has ensued in Minnesota courts since the release of Missouri v. McNeely by the U.S. Supreme Court. In McNeely, the Court overruled the current law in Minnesota. Minnesota had created a “single factor exigency exception” to the warrant requirement for alcohol tests in DWI cases – because alcohol dissipates over time in the blood stream, there is a “time is of the essence” reality in measuring the blood alcohol concentration in DWI suspects. McNeely said, “No, you need a warrant.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court’s first application of McNeely was in State v. Brooks. Here, the court declined to find that the threat of criminal prosecution for refusing to submit to an alcohol test was coercive. As such, consent is a long recognized exception to the warrant requirement for an unconstitutional search. Bypass McNeely all together.
Once again, Minnesota has bypassed McNeely and has left many shaking their heads, including the dissenting justices. The court has rewritten the search-incident-to-arrest exception to include alcohol breath tests in DWI cases. The disagreement between the majority and the dissent is impossible to miss in this opinion. Quoting from the dissent, “In the end, the court ultimately arrives at a decision that is as notable for its disregard of Supreme Court precedent as it is for its defective logic.”