MN court: Drivers license cannot be revoked in unconstitutional search

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today ruled that you cannot lose your driver’s license for refusing to submit to a urine test for DUI if a police officer says it’s a crime not to.

This is the latest skirmish in the state’s implied consent rule, which presently allows police to force suspects to take a breathalyzer test without a warrant. But the Supreme Court earlier this year struck down warrantless blood and urine tests.

Separately, Minnesota law allows the commissioner of public safety to revoke a driver’s license of anyone who refuses to submit to DUI testing.

That’s what Tyler Lee Johnson did last November after he drove through an intersection in North Branch and struck a tree. A police officer found a bottle of pills next to his car seat.

The officer told Johnson that refusing to submit to the urine or blood test without a warrant would be a crime. It wouldn’t have been. In fact, it would have been an unconstitutional search.

But his driver’s license was suspended anyway until a district court returned it, saying Johnson’s right to due process was violated when he was told incorrect information about what would happen to him if he refused.

In today’s decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected the commissioner of public safety’s appeal.

Among other decisions, the court cited last month’s Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that authorities are going to have to get warrants to test urine and blood samples of those suspected of driving under the influence, and drivers can’t be prosecuted for refusing to submit to a search that is unconstitutional.

“Here, the constitutional protection at issue is the established due-process right not to be misled by the government regarding one’s legal obligations or the potential criminal penalties for failing to satisfy those obligations,” Judge Michelle Ann Larkin wrote today on behalf of a three-judge panel.