Within the last several months there has been a string of rulings by the Minnesota Court of Appeals with regard to urine test challenges. I have discussed these rulings in my earlier blog postings. http://www.kanslaw.com/blog/minnesota-court-issues-ruling-on-reliabililty-of-urine-testing-in-dwi-cases.html and http://www.kanslaw.com/blog/minneapolis-dwi-lawyer-mn-court-issues-ruling-on-urine-testing.html. These cases, for the most part, dealt with the issue of “urine pooling” and whether and expert witness should be allowed to testify with regard to this issue at the hearing or trial.
However, in the present case, Stucco vs. Commissioner of Public Safety, the court focused on this issue of whether a urine test obtained by the police after a DWI arrest is in violation of driver’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures.
In Stocco, the driver was asked to submit to a urine test subsequent to his DWI arrest and after he was read the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory informing him that a refusal to submit to a test is a crime under the Minnesota Implied Consent Law. The driver submitted to the urine test which ultimately was tested by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA ) and revealed an alcohol concentration of .14.
The driver’s attorney first argued that the urine test was not reliable because of the delay between the submission of the urine test and its ultimate testing by the BCA. An expert witness, testifying for the defense at the hearing in the lower court, stated that if the urine sample remained at room temperature or below freezing prior to testing, it may not be reliable. Without proof or evidence that either of these things actually occurred, the court ruled against the driver on this issue.
The second issue raised by the driver was whether the urine test was obtained by the police in violation of his Fourth Amendment Constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures. The driver’s attorney argued that the “implied consent” in this case was not voluntary consent as the test was coerced when the police told the driver he would be charged with the crime of refusal if he did not provide the urine sample. Furthermore, it was argued, since the driver did not give consent the police needed a warrant in order obtain his urine sample. Lastly, the driver’s attorney argued since the police did not have a warrant and the exigent exception to the warrant requirement did not exist, the urine test should be thrown out as violation of the driver’s Fourth Amendment Right.
However, the court, citing its earlier rulings, held that exigent circumstances did, in fact, exist in this case allowing for an exception to the warrant requirement. The court, citing an earlier Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, found that the natural dissipation of alcohol creates this exigency allowing for the exception.