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Minnesota justices: Warrants necessary for blood alcohol tests

The Minnesota Supreme Court has finally made a decision in a landmark case that could reshape the way drunk driving charges are handled throughout the state. In previous blog posts, we discussed State v. Brooks, a case that examined the legality of the chemical tests Minnesota drivers are subjected to when they are suspected of driving while intoxicated.

The state's high court agreed with the defense, saying that police officers should try to obtain a warrant before conducting a blood test. Attorney Jeff Sheridan noted the significance of the ruling by pointing out that drunk driving cases will now be treated like other criminal cases. Failing to obtain a warrant before drawing a person's blood is considered a violation of his or her civil rights.

This ruling from Minnesota’s top court acknowledges and affirms a ruling made earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a result of this decision, many may be asking: What exactly does this mean? The ruling is fresh, so it's unclear what the full spectrum of effects will be, but it's been clarified that Minnesota police must obtain a warrant for blood tests. Otherwise, the results could be thrown out in court.

Furthermore, it's uncertain whether or not further legal challenges will emerge as a result of this ruling. Specifically, the legal issues surrounding whether or not implied consent laws amount to coercion could be examined in the future, perhaps by a superior court.

This ruling confirms that people who are accused of DWI could benefit from understanding their rights. After all, police are required to abide by the law, and failure to do so could affect the outcome of a criminal case.

Source: Star Tribune, "Narrow Supreme Court ruling says warrants necessary for DWI blood draws," Abby Simons, Oct. 23, 2013

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