State v. Brooks: Afterthoughts

November 5, 2013

This past weekend I attended a DWI legal conference and as expected, everybody was asking the same questions regarding State v. Brooks, and its impact on DWI law in the State of Minnesota. After having some time to absorb this legal decision and discuss it with colleagues, here are some thoughts.

First, the Minnesota Supreme Court seemingly acknowledges that taking somebody’s blood or urine for purposes of determining whether somebody is under the influence is a “search” that is subject to the warrant requirement imposed by the Constitution. Many, including myself, will interpret this to mean that like blood and urine searches, a person’s breath is subject to the same constitutional requirement. Because the warrant requirement applies, the State must either have a warrant or a legal exception before completing the search.

In determining whether the State has a legal exception to the warrant requirement, the court must look at the “totality of the circumstances” in each individual case. This also applies to the “consent” exception. In Brooks’ case, the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that under the totality of the circumstances, Brooks consented to the blood and urines searches. Despite being told that his non-compliance with the test would lead to additional criminal charges, the Court nonetheless found his consent valid and paid particular attention to the fact the fact he had contacted an attorney prior to completing each test. In addition, the Court found it important that Brooks expressed to law enforcement what test he was willing to take. He also had a substantial amount of experience with the judicial system. In all, this is an interesting result, to say the least. Despite these factors, Brooks was instructed that if he did not take the test, he would be charged with a crime!

Nonetheless, and moving forward, simply because you “agree” to take a blood, urine, or breath test at the police station, does not necessarily mean that you “consented” to the test. The Court instructs that we have to look at: (1) the nature of the encounter; (2) the kind of person the defendant is; and (3) what and how things were said. In evaluating these factors in Brooks’ case, the Court found he consented. Somebody else’s case might be different.

With respect to the constitutionality of the implied consent statute, the Court finds that the statute is constitutional in Brooks’ case, and stressed the fact that his “consent” was found based on a totality of the circumstances voluntariness of consent, and not the “implied consent” found in Minnesota Statute. There are currently some cases pending at the Minnesota Court of Appeals that may add clarity to this issue. At this point, however, it would seem the criminal refusal statute in Minnesota is in jeopardy.

This article is not intended to be legal advice or create an attorney client relationship. If you charged with driving while impaired (DWI), contact a defense lawyer immediately. Poole Law Office PLLC is a law firm in Duluth, MN that practices in all areas of criminal defense, including drunk driving or DWI. For a free consultation, contact us now by calling 218-461-0247, or complete the contact form located on the right side of the page.