Appeals Court Upholds MN Implied Consent Prosecution

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: DWI, implied consent refusal.

State of Minnesota v. William Robert Bernard, Jr. MN DWI, implied consent refusal

William Robert Bernard, Jr, was arrested for suspected drunk driving in South St. Paul, Minnesota, and refused to take a breath test. He was charged with the crime of test refusal, but the Dakota County District Court dismissed the charge. According to the lower court, the Constitution prevents the state from criminalizing the refusal to a warrantless search. The lower court based this ruling on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). Dissatisfied with this turn of events, the Dakota County Attorney's Office appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. After hearing arguments, the Court of Appeals put the case on hold pending the outcome of the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in State v. Brooks, 838 N.W.2d 563 (Minn. 2013). After that case was decided in October, 2013, the Court of Appeals once again considered the case, and issued its decision on March 17, 2014.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision and reinstated the case against Bernard. The court noted that due to exigent circumstances, a warrantless search might have been proper in this case. Therefore, it held that the state has the power to compel a search, as long as long as the circumstances are such that the requesting officer had grounds to have obtained a constitutionally reasonable nonconsensual chemical test.

No. A13-1245 (Minn. Ct. App. Mar. 17, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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