Objection to Minnesota law criminalizing the refusal of alcohol level tests

In 2012,  William Bernard was approached by police at a public boat ramp and asked to undergo field sobriety tests which he refused, he was then taken into custody and asked to undergo a breath test which he also refused. Consequently, he was charged with felonies for refusal to submit to chemical testing. After the MN Court of Appeals upheld the law that criminalizes test refusal, Bernard appealed the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The ACLU is not representing Bernard.

In their decision the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that because the police could have obtained a warrant, but chose not to, Bernard may be charged with a crime for refusing to consent to the warrantless search.

The U.S. Supreme Court has found that taking blood and urine samples is a Fourth Amendment "search" the ACLU-MN believes this to mean that a warrant should be required for all alcohol level testing. However, the police do not need a warrant if the person agrees to the search, as long as the consent was freely and voluntarily given. The ACLU-MN argues that by criminalizing the refusal of a search the State of Minnesota is forcing individuals to give up their Fourth Amendment protections without due process. The ACLU-MN argues in their brief that this effectively repeals the warrant requirement in the Fourth Amendment.

The Minnesota Supreme Court issued their decision on February 11, 2015 ultimately dismissing the two counts of test refusal against Bernard because the search, in this case, was not a valid warentless search.


Howard Bass of Bass Law Firm, Nicole Moen of Fredrikson and Byron, and Teresa Nelson of ACLU-MN

Date filed

June 11, 2014


Minnesota Supreme Court