Urine Testing Challenge Denied by Minnesota Supreme Court

8 Feb

In a decision issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court today entitled State of Minnesota v. Herman Tanksley, Jr., the Minnesota Supreme Court denied a defendant’s challenge to evidence in a driving while intoxicated (DWI) case.  The evidentiary challenge of the defense was that urine samples which were not taken after a void was first given are inherently inaccurate and are unreliable because they don’t have a reliable correlation to blood alcohol concentration; this argument is sometimes called the “first void” or “pooling” argument.  The Minnesota Supreme Court held that whether a urine sample reliably correlates to blood alcohol concentration is irrelevant to the State proving a DWI case under Minn. Stat. § 169A.20 subd. 1(5).  When the State is prosecuting a DWI based on urine results, the only two points that have to be proven are: 1) that the defendant drove, operated, or physically controlled a motor vehicle within the State of Minnesota; and 2) that the defendant’s alcohol concentration was .08 or more at the time or within 2 hours of the time that they drove or physically controlled the motor vehicle.  Alcohol concentration, by statutory definition, can be any one of three different measurements, one of which is the number of grams of alcohol per 67 milliliters of urine.  The court held that with this independent basis for proving a crime under the statute, the correlation of that urine result to the blood alcohol concentration is not relevant and therefore a court need not hold a Frye-Mack hearing (a hearing challenging the scientific validity of evidence) when there is a challenge of “first void” urine testing.  A copy of the decision can be found here.

This blog entry is written by Chris Renz, a shareholder at Thomsen Nybeck.Chris practices in the litigation area of the firm with primary focus on real estate litigation, employment litigation, townhome and condominium law, and criminal law, particularly as the prosecutor for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

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