Stearns County to Require DWI Search Warrants

Updated: 08/26/2013 7:29 AM By: Leslie Dyste

Stearns County is the first in Minnesota to change the way deputies will handle suspected drunk drivers.

Minnesota police officers have read an implied consent advisory to suspected drunk drivers since the 1960s. It states, "Refusal to take a test is a crime."  But that's changing now.

Because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case out of Missouri, a new Stearns County policy says law enforcement officers will have to get a search warrant before taking blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse blood tests.

"Rather than have a critical piece of evidence thrown out, we're going to get the warrant and we're going to start that at the end of August," said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.

To get a warrant a police officer will type up the report in their squad car. They will then send it to the judge and the judge will have to sign-off on it, either in person or by sending a fax.

Bill Lemons with the Minnesota County Attorneys Association says a pending state Supreme Court case could clear up the DWI confusion, but judges aren't expected to even hear arguments until September.

"I think ultimately it's an interim thing. I think ultimately we're probably going to, you know, get a decision from the Supreme Court and we're going to, you know, kind of go from there."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall about the changes, but she refused to comment.

We also reached out to larger counties around Minnesota to see if they'll follow Stearns County's lead. So far, Ramsey, Hennepin and Washington Counties have said they have no changes planned.