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A Clay County district court judge rejected a recent Court of Appeals decision Tuesday, deciding instead to look to U.S. Supreme Court precedent in dismissing a charge of DWI test refusal.

District Court judge rejects Court of Appeals opinion

A Clay County district court judge rejected a recent Court of Appeals decision Tuesday, deciding instead to look to U.S. Supreme Court precedent in dismissing a charge of DWI test refusal.

Judge Steven Cahill dismissed the charge, saying that Angeliac Diane Paige Greenwaldt exercised her constitutional right to refuse an “unreasonable search” when she declined to submit to a breath test after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The state did not prove either exigent circumstances or consent, both of which would allow the state to overcome the warrant requirement, Cahill wrote.

Cahill declined to apply the recent Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion State v. Bernard, which was, Cahill wrote, “an unprecedented decision” holding “that when the circumstances of the case are such that the requesting officer could have secured a search warrant, any nonconsensual search of the defendant’s blood, breath or urine would be reasonable; therefore the state may constitutionally criminalize” test refusal from a suspected drunk driver. Cahill wrote that the Bernard opinion was not supported by State v. Wiseman, the authority cited by the Court of Appeals.

Cahill relied upon U.S. Supreme Court precedent, writing that the “scope of the issue revolves around matters concerning the United States Constitution.” He quoted Frost v. Railroad Commission of California to argue against the basic concept of the test refusal law, which he said conditions the privilege of driving upon forfeiting the constitutional right to refuse unreasonable searches.

“If the state may compel the surrender of one constitutional right as a condition of its favor, it may, in like number, compel a surrender of all,” the court wrote in that 1926 decision. “It is inconceivable that guaranties embedded in the Constitution of the United States may then be manipulated out of existence.”

Cahill declined to rule on the constitutionality of the law itself, saying that district court judges across the state disagree on the issue.

“The constitutionality of the implied consent law and the test refusal statute is, at most, merely uncertain – not beyond reasonable doubt,” wrote Cahill.

 

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