The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an opinion that reiterates the recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision finding that a breath test is a constitutionally permissible search incident to an arrest, and therefore the refusal statute is valid.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional because it is a “reasonable means” to achieve a reduction in intoxicated driving deaths. The criminal refusal statute was reviewed under the lowest level of court review, known as the “rational basis” test.
To pass the rational basis test, a law will be upheld as constitutional as long as it has any rational basis, even if that was not the true reason the legislature used when passing the legislation. Drunk driving has long been a problem on the highways of Minnesota and throughout the country, and courts have frequently been deferential towards laws aimed at reducing deaths from DWIs.
In the recent court of appeals decision, the court clarified an additional element of DWI law. The presence of children in a vehicle when you are charged with a DWI creates an aggravating factor. However, in this case, the trial court counted each child in the vehicle counts as an additional aggravating factor.
The court of appeals determined this was incorrect. Regardless of the number of children, the statute only creates a single aggravating factor when they are in the vehicle.
Because courts only deal with issues presented by the parties in specific cases, it may take years before a case comes before a court dealing with an issue of statutory interpretation. This is why you would need to discuss your facts and issues with an attorney before determining if you have viable issues for an appeal.
Source: mprnews.com, “MN court upholds crime of refusing DWI test,” Bob Collins, July 13, 2015