DWI Blood Test Search Warrant Gets Mixed Reaction

Posted at: 08/15/2013 10:49 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- A drunk driving case in Missouri has had a ripple effect all the way to Minnesota. Now, those in the state are reviewing how they'll handle similar situations. In Minnesota, a breath test and even blood test are common for suspected drunk drivers, now Stearns County in central Minnesota is changing policy. Stearns is now the first in the state to require police to obtain a search warrant before taking blood samples.

Though the new law is intended to give drivers the right to decline, officials here say this makes it much harder for police to crack down on this ongoing issue.

As the law stands, if you get pulled over, take sobriety tests, even a breathalyzer, you still may be taken back to the station for more tests, like giving blood samples. If police have probable cause to do so, you’re handed an "implied consent" form, and if you check the refusal box…"It's a crime in and of itself. It's a separate crime than the actual DWI offense," said Sgt. Tom Claymon with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department.

Now in Stearns County, if a driver voluntarily refuses to submit to a chemical test, officials must get search a warrant to do it.

"It has happened where an officer has gotten 3 DWI's in a night and that is obviously time consuming in and of itself, but it would be impossible if they were required to get a search warrant for every one of those," said Sgt. Claymon.

To even get a warrant, you'd have to have approval from a judge, which officials say, can take some time. "Obviously the longer it's protracted out, the evidence is continuing to diminish in that drivers body," said Sgt. Claymon.

The idea behind it is to give people the right to choose. "Where does it stop? Do they give a DNA test? Do they keep going? Where does it stop on the infringement of your rights? …and I think drawing your blood is something more personal than say a breathalyzer or something like that," said driver Trim Terrill.

"I think if a person gets pulled over because their driving isn't right, then they need to submit to a test," said driver Blair Harrington.

Sgt. Claymon says changing the rule, like Stearns County did, is something a judge would have to decide.  Asof now, Olmsted County has no plans of switching over to this new rule.