Minnesota’s supreme court this month ruled that drugs in a person’s system can indeed be taken into account when administering a blood alcohol test – even if the initial suspicion was that they were driving drunk.
The ruling stems from the case of Debra Fawcett who was involved in a 2-vehicle crash in Blaine, Minnesota back in May of 2014, according to a report from MPR News.
After allegedly running a red light, which caused the incident, Fawcett told police she’d had 2 to 3 beers earlier in the day. However, when authorities administered a blood alcohol test, no alcohol was found. Did that mean Fawcett was in the clear? No, authorities instead charged the woman for having two drugs in her system.
According to the tests, found in Fawcett’s blood were drugs including tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC, and Alprazolam – the latter of which Fawcett had a prescription for.
Fawcett’s defense had argued the court should suppress the test and throw out the charge because the warrant for the blood alcohol test had been requested to search for alcohol, not drugs. A state of appeals court agreed. However, when the state’s supreme court considered the issue earlier this month, the ruling of the lower court was overturned.
“Because it was “apparent” to those officers that Fawcett was impaired, it was not unreasonable for the issuing judge to infer that Fawcett’s impairment may have been caused by alcohol, controlled substances, or some combination of the two,” Justice Lorie Gildea noted in the ruling when writing for the majority.
Justice David Stras, however, disagreed, arguing that no probable cause existed to search Fawcett for drugs in her system.
The court in its ruling was closely divided. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling related to the matter, striking down the right for authorities to administer warrantless blood tests for all of Minnesota.