State v. Thompson

Decision Date12 October 2016
Docket NumberNo. A15–0076.,A15–0076.
Citation886 N.W.2d 224
Parties STATE of Minnesota, Appellant, v. Ryan Mark THOMPSON, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, MN; and Daniel A. McIntosh, Steele County Attorney, Julia A. Forbes, Assistant County Attorney, Thomas R. Ragatz, Special Assistant County Attorney, Owatonna, MN, for appellant.

Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Saint Paul, MN; and Daniel J. Koewler, Charles A. Ramsay, Ramsay Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Roseville, MN, for respondent.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Alethea M. Huyser, Assistant Solicitor General, Michael Everson, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, MN, for amicus curiae Minnesota Attorney General.

Teresa Nelson, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN; and Bruce Jones, Peter M. Routhier, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Minneapolis, MN, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.



, Chief Justice.

The question presented in this case is whether Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2 (2014)

(“test refusal statute), is constitutional as applied to respondent Ryan Mark Thompson. After Thompson was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired and refused warrantless blood and urine tests, he was charged with and convicted of test refusal. Thompson moved to dismiss the test refusal charge, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional, but the district court denied his motion. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed. State v. Thompson, 873 N.W.2d 873, 880 (Minn.App.2015). Because we conclude that the test refusal statute is unconstitutional as applied to Thompson, we affirm.

Around 1:00 a.m. on April 13, 2012, an Owatonna police officer watched patrons as they left a bar in Owatonna at closing time. The officer saw a vehicle, which police later determined Thompson was driving, jump the curb and then stop quickly before reversing and leaving the parking lot. As the vehicle turned onto the street outside the bar, it cut the corner short and crossed the center line. The officer initiated a traffic stop.

When the officer approached the vehicle, Thompson provided the driver's license of a female passenger in the vehicle. Thompson informed the officer that he did not have his license with him, but the officer was eventually able to identify Thompson by his name and date of birth. The officer noticed “an overwhelming odor” of alcohol coming from the vehicle while he spoke with Thompson, and saw that Thompson had “watery and glassy eyes.” Thompson maintained that he had consumed only one beer.

After Thompson failed standardized field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test, the officer placed Thompson under arrest for driving while impaired, and transported him to the Steele County Detention Center. There, officers gave Thompson a telephone, a telephone book, and a directory of attorneys he could contact. Thompson left a voicemail with one attorney and told the officer that he had finished attempting to contact an attorney. After the officer read the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory to Thompson, the officer asked Thompson to submit to a blood or urine test

. Thompson refused both tests, and when asked why, stated [f]or the fact that I don't think I've been prosecuted properly.”

The State subsequently charged Thompson with one count of second-degree test refusal, Minn.Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 2

, 169A.25 (2014) ; one count of third-degree driving while impaired, Minn.Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1), 169A.26 (2014) ; one count of obstruction of legal process, Minn.Stat. § 609.50, subds. 1(2), 2(3) (2014) ; and one count of driving over the centerline, Minn.Stat. § 169.18, subd. 1 (2014). Thompson moved for dismissal of the test refusal charge, arguing that the application of the test refusal statute to him violated his substantive due process rights and the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions. Relying on our decision in State v. Bernard, 859 N.W.2d 762 (2015), aff'd sub nom.

Birchfield v. North Dakota, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (2016), the district court held that the statute was constitutional. Thompson then waived his right to a jury trial and other trial rights, and the parties agreed to a stipulated-facts trial under Minn. R.Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4, on the test refusal charge. The State dismissed the other charges. The district court found Thompson guilty of test refusal.

The court of appeals reversed Thompson's conviction, concluding that charging an individual with test refusal violates a fundamental right because a warrantless search of a driver's blood or urine does not qualify under an exception to the warrant requirement and the test refusal statute is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. Thompson, 873 N.W.2d at 878, 880

. We granted the State's petition for review.

On appeal, the State argues that the test refusal statute was constitutionally applied to Thompson because a warrantless search of his blood or urine would have been constitutional as a search incident to a valid arrest.1 In the alternative, the State argues that even if a warrantless search violates the Fourth Amendment, we should nevertheless uphold Thompson's conviction under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. We address each argument in turn.


We turn first to the State's contention that the test refusal statute is constitutional as applied to Thompson. Under the test refusal statute, [i]t is a crime for any person to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person's blood, breath, or urine under section 169A.51 (chemical tests for intoxication), or 169A.52 (test refusal or failure; revocation of license).” Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2

. Minnesota law also provides that [a]ny person who drives ... a motor vehicle within this state ... consents ... to a chemical test of that person's blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol, a controlled substance or its metabolite, or a hazardous substance” and authorizes law enforcement to request that a driver submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine in certain circumstances. See Minn.Stat. § 169A.51, subd. 1 (2014).

The State contends that a warrantless search of an arrestee's urine, conducted after the suspected drunk driver is in police custody, is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment as a search incident to a valid arrest. Because an arrestee has no right to refuse a constitutional search, the State argues, the test refusal statute is constitutional as applied to Thompson. For his part, Thompson maintains that a warrantless urine search does not qualify as a search incident to a valid arrest and that the test refusal statute unconstitutionally criminalizes the assertion of the right to be free from unreasonable searches. The constitutionality of a statute presents a question of law that we review de novo. In re Welfare of M.L.M., 813 N.W.2d 26, 29 (Minn.2012)


The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees [t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV

; see also Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. The “touchstone” of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness. United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 118, 122 S.Ct. 587, 151 L.Ed.2d 497 (2001). When law enforcement seeks to conduct a search to uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, reasonableness typically requires law enforcement to obtain a judicial warrant before conducting the search. Vernonia Sch. Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646, 653, 115 S.Ct. 2386, 132 L.Ed.2d 564 (1995) (citing Skinner v. Ry. Labor Execs' Ass'n, 489 U.S. 602, 619, 109 S.Ct. 1402, 103 L.Ed.2d 639 (1989) ); see also

Riley v. California, ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2482, 189 L.Ed.2d 430 (2014) (“Such a warrant ensures that the inferences to support a search are drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime.” (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Searches conducted without a warrant, “outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable ... subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967). The exception at issue here is the search-incident-to-arrest exception. See, e.g.,

Riley, ––– U.S. at ––––, 134 S.Ct. at 2483–84 (discussing the search-incident-to-arrest exception).

While this case was pending before our court, the United States Supreme Court decided Birchfield, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2160

. In Birchfield, the Court considered the search-incident-to-arrest exception in analyzing the constitutionality of the application of North Dakota's and Minnesota's test refusal statutes to warrantless breath and blood tests.2 Specifically, the Court considered how one of the “established and well-delineated” exceptions to the warrant requirement, a search performed incident to a valid arrest, applied to breath and blood tests of drivers arrested for drunk driving. ––– U.S. at ––––, 136 S.Ct. at 2174–76, 2188

. The Court noted that in United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 235, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973), it had previously “repudiated ‘case-by-case adjudication’ of the question whether an arresting officer had the authority to carry out a search of the arrestee's person” and reaffirmed that [t]he permissibility of” a search incident to an arrest “does not depend on whether a search of a particular arrestee is likely to protect officer safety” or lead to the discovery of evidence that could be destroyed. Birchfield, ––– U.S. at ––––, 136 S.Ct. at 2176. The Court reaffirmed Robinson's categorical rule” in Riley, ––– U.S. at ––––, 134 S.Ct. at 2484, and further explained how the rule should be applied in “situations that could not have been envisioned...

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