Historically, Minnesota courts rely on a concept called “single-factor exigency” in striking down challenges to Minnesota’s DWI laws. Single-factor exigency refers to the rapid, natural dissipation of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream that creates a sole exigent circumstance sufficient enough for law enforcement to bypass securing a warrant when obtaining a chemical test from an individual. Recently in Missouri v. McNeely, the United States Supreme Court concluded that single-factor exigency, on its own, is not a sufficient reason for the police to draw blood from someone arrested on suspicion of a DWI. In upholding the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Court stated that exigency must be determined “case by case based on the totality of the circumstances”. That decision directly abrogates Minnesota law, most notably its decisions in Shriner and Netland.
Factually, Shriner and McNeely are similar in that they both involve nonconsensual warrantless blood draws. In Shriner, the Minnesota Supreme Court said it was perfectly fine for law enforcement to take someone’s blood without a warrant and without the person’s consent. The court in Shriner relied heavily on an incorrect interpretation of Schmerber stating that Schmerber allows for single-factor exigency. But, McNeely instructs that Schmerber calls for a totality-of-the-circumstances test, not single-factor exigency.
In Shriner, the Minnesota Supreme Court also stated that requiring law enforcement to get a warrant would be an unreasonable burden in DWI cases, despite the availability of telephonic warrants and the accessibility of warrants in the digital age. McNeely, again, disagreed with Minnesota’s overgeneralization and stated that a per se rule against obtaining a warrant is an incorrect analysis of Schmerber, which calls for a fact specific inquiry in each case. The Court in McNeely went on to state that Schmerber was decided 47 years ago, and that the advances in technology allow for a more streamlined warrant process, which the majority of states allow.
In State v. Netland, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that a warrant was not required to obtain a chemical test for blood alcohol and the refusal statute is not unconstitutional. Netland was arrested on suspicion of a DWI and she requested a blood test. The officer, however, would only offer Netland a breath test. After repeated efforts to take the breath test, the officer charged Netland with refusal based on deficient samples given by Netland. In its decision, Minnesota again relied heavily on single-factor exigency and stated that a warrant is not required to secure a blood-alcohol test when there is probable cause to believe someone was under the influence of a chemical while driving.
In light of McNeely, Shriner and Netland are no longer good law. If you decide to Shepardize, Keycite, or ask your local reference librarian for guidance, they all will tell you to not rely on Shriner and Netland anymore. As a result, Minnesota’s entire Implied Consent laws may fail. Minnesota can no longer solely rely on single-factor exigency. If Minnesota continues to hold that a warrant is not necessary to obtain a chemical test from someone arrested on suspicion of a DWI, then it will have develop another reason to do so. Until the United States Supreme Court overturns Minnesota, again.
By Robert H. Ambrose, Associate Attorney at Kans Law Firm, LLC