Although this unpublished decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals is over a year old, how the court reached its conclusion is still interesting and worth noting. This particular decision involved an appeal by the state of a lower court’s decision to suppress the defendant’s urine test results. The Minnesota Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s consent to a urine test had not been coerced by the officer’s failure to properly advise her of alternative testing options. As a result, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling, siding with the prosecution.
It is well established in Minnesota that if a driver is offered either a blood or urine test, he or she must be offered an alternative form of testing, or the individual cannot be revoked or convicted of the crime of refusal. The basic rational is that some people are adverse to needles, therefore an alternative test must be offered or there is no crime of refusal. In addition, some individuals may physically be unable to provide a urine sample when requested, so an alternative test to urine, either breath or blood, should be offered to the driver before they are either revoked or charged with the crime of refusal.
The defendant was arrested on suspicion of DWI and taken into a chemical-testing unit. The officer read defendant the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory and defendant stated that she understood her rights. The arresting officer then asked her if she would like to speak to an attorney to which she responded by saying, “I don’t think so… No. I really don’t understand… let’s just proceed.” The officer then asked if she would submit to a urine test and she responded by asking a question: “It has to be the urine test?” The officer responded only by saying, “We take the urine test.” The defendant then provided a urine sample which revealed that she had an alcohol concentration of 0.17. As a result, defendant was charged with two counts of gross-misdemeanor DWI and one misdemeanor traffic violation.
The defendant challenged the urine test in court, arguing that officer’s failure to tell her about alternative testing options amounted to a fatal error. The lower court agreed, saying that the officer misled defendant by failing to inform her of other options. The lower court said this failure amounted to coercion on the part of the officer and the test results were suppressed. The state appealed the decision, moving the case on to the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals cited Minnesota Statue §169A.51, subd. 1(a) (2008), which says that a person who has been arrested for DWI may be asked to submit to testing of his or her blood, breath, or urine to determine alcohol concentration. The statute goes on to say that the decision of which test to administer is within the discretion of the police officer. “Although alternative tests are available, an officer is not required to explain this or offer another means of testing until the driver refuses the first test offered.”
The Court of Appeals pointed out that when the defendant was asked if she would provide a urine sample she responded with a question “It has to be the urine test?” and not an unequivocal “No.” While the Court agreed that the officer could have been more forthcoming, it was not his job to do so. Instead, defendant should have spoken to an attorney about what exactly her rights were.