Police in Northern Minnesota claim that a man pretended that he cannot speak English during an investigation into a possible driving while impaired offense. The arresting officer claims that the 34-year-old North Dakota resident said “No habla,” when the officer asked the driver his name. The Moorhead police officer, however, apparently speaks Spanish and switched over to that language to identify the driver. Police say that the driver later admitted that he can speak English.
The larger problem for the man involves issues from his past. Prosecutors claim that he has several prior DWI convictions on his record. Law enforcement also claims that the man became uncooperative at the police station before refusing to submit to a DWI chemical test. He now faces two felony charges; felony DWI and felony DWI test refusal.
Law enforcement believes that the man was under the influence of alcohol. Minnesota’s implied consent law also makes it a crime to refuse a breath test when police have probable cause to suspect a driver has been driving while impaired.
The issues surrounding the implied consent and chemical test refusal laws have been under fire from criminal defense lawyers in recent years. Defense lawyers assert that making it a crime to refuse the test is coercive, eliminating the possibility that the so-called implied consent is voluntary. Courts in Minnesota have struggled with that idea.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that in a routine DWI investigation, a warrant is generally preferred to obtain a blood sample to test for alcohol or drugs. The rule is not absolute. The court says that it is up to the state to support that an exception exists in warrantless DWI cases.
The nation’s highest court remanded a Minnesota case after making that ruling for consideration in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s analysis. The case challenged the warrantless chemical test. Among the defense arguments was a challenge to the issue of implied consent.
On remand n Minnesota, the state high court essentially ruled that the man voluntarily consented under Minnesota’s implied consent procedures. The Minnesota Supreme Court says that although test refusal is a crime, that does not make the law unlawfully coercive.
Source: WDAY, “DWI suspect pretends to not speak English in Moorhead traffic stop,” Forum News, June 5, 2014; Minnesota Supreme Court, “State v. Brooks, A11-1042, A11-1043,” Oct. 23, 2014