Minnesota Court of Appeals Rules Changes to DWI Law Are Not Retroactive

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in Johnson v. State, A17-0842, A17-0883 (Minn. Ct. App. Jan. 2, 2018) that because the new rules in DWI law announced in State v. Trahan, 886 N.W.2d 216 (Minn. 2016), and State v. Thompson, 886 N.W.2d 224 (Minn. 2016) were procedural and not substantive, they do not apply retroactively.

What does this mean in plain English?  Prior to the decisions in Trahan and Thompson, Minnesota drivers could be charged with DWI-Test Refusal if, after being arrested for DWI, they refused to submit to a blood or urine test to check their blood alcohol content.  In 2016, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that these DWI-Test Refusal charges were unconstitutional (illegal) unless law enforcement had a warrant or exigent circumstances existed.

After Trahan and Thompson, many Minnesota drivers who had been convicted of DWI-Test Refusal under the old laws were left wondering if their convictions could be overturned now that their particular refusal crime was ruled unconstitutional.  Today’s Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling puts that question to bed:  No, you cannot have your refusal conviction overturned because the rule change is not retroactive.