MN Supreme Court: OK to pull license of driver refusing unconstitutional search

When Tyler Johnson was told by a police officer in North Branch in November 2015 that he could be charged with a crime and lose his driver’s license if he did not agree to urine or blood testing because of a suspicion that he was driving under the influence, he was getting some bad information.

He was read the state’s “implied consent” advisory (after blowing through an intersection and hitting a tree) which says if a driver refuses to submit to testing, his/her driver’s license can be suspended for a year. Under the implied consent law, drivers are considered to have consented to a search when they obtain their driver’s license.

Johnson refused the test and lost his license.

But without a warrant, forcing someone to submit to urine or blood testing would be unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled and the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last fall that Johnson can’t lose his license for refusing an unconstitutional search.

Yes he can, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today. Why? Because he refused the unconstitutional search.

It overturned the Court of Appeals decision that said the Commissioner of Public Safety couldn’t take Johnson’s license away for refusing to agree to an unconstitutional search.

And it based its decision on a 1991 case in which a woman — Cindy Moser — agreed to testing based on being advised that failure to do so could result in a loss of her license and criminal penalties that authorities couldn’t actually bring.

She wouldn’t have taken the test if not for the threat of additional charges, Justice G. Barry Anderson wrote on behalf of the majority. But that’s different from Johnson’s situation because he didn’t submit to the blood and urine tests.

“There is no concern here that Johnson was prejudiced by relying on misleading statements by the officer about the consequences of refusing a test because Johnson did not submit to testing,” he wrote, saying only if Johnson’s had done so, would his rights have been violated.