County attorney pleased by drunk driving decision

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman called the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday in State v. Brooks “a positive step forward.”

While the court ruled narrowly in finding that authorities did not have to obtain a search warrant in order to get a urine or blood sample from a suspected drunk driver, it provides more certainty for law enforcement officers on how to enforce some of the most important public safety laws on the books.

“We anticipated the Minnesota Supreme Court would rule this way and we are pleased with the ruling,” Freeman said. “In many ways, how police officers do their job today in enforcing drunk driver laws is exactly the way they did it before this ruling. In the Brooks case, the arresting officers read him the implied consent advisory, gave him a chance to talk to a lawyer and then he voluntarily agreed to provide a blood or urine sample. The court today essentially said that is the proper way to handle drunk driving cases. If that process is followed, we prosecutors should be able to convict those with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit and not worry about the cases being overturned or thrown out.”

This was the court’s first chance to decide how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McNeely v. Missouri might affect Minnesota law. Under that ruling, the court ruled that there are circumstances where law enforcement must obtain a search warrant in order to do blood or urine testing for alcohol levels.

Wesley Brooks was arrested twice in Scott County and once in Hennepin County on suspicion of drunk driving. In all three cases, he was read the implied consent advisory, spoke to his lawyer and then provided a blood or urine sample. In each case, his blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit and he was convicted. Chief Justice Lori Gildea wrote that his convictions should be upheld because, "we hold that Brooks voluntarily consented to the searches at issue in this case."