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Appeals Court Reaches Puzzling Decision In Breath-Test Refusal Case

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2014 | Firm News |


In March, the Minnesota Court of Appeals handed down a decision that some criminal law experts found unusual. The court found that a defendant can be charged with refusing to submit to a breath test if the arresting officer thinks there is enough evidence for a warrant — even if a warrant is never obtained.

The case that gave rise to this decision stemmed from an August 2012 incident in which a Southern St. Paul man was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Witnesses called police to report that a man who was moving a boat from a marina on the Mississippi River seemed to be drunk. When police arrived, the man was not in the truck and denied being the driver. The arresting officers felt that he “smelled strongly of alcohol,” the Star Tribune reports, and tried to give him a breath test. He refused.

The man was then charged with breath test refusal. A trial court disagreed with police and sided with the defendant, but that decision was overturned March 17 by the Court of Appeals.

As a DWI attorney in Minneapolis, I must say that I find aspects of this decision unusual. It seems as though the court thought it was okay for a police officer to act in a way that needs a warrant if they thought they could obtain a warrant, regardless of whether they had one.

The defendant has indicated that he will appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. If that happens, we will watch that case with interest.

If you have been arrested for a DWI or for refusing to take a breath-test, it is important that you have legal representation to defend your rights in Minneapolis. Feel free to contact us.