Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Hall (Decided September 6, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the open doorway to your home is not a constitutionally protected area.

In Hall, the Defendant's neighbor saw the Defendant drive his car at a high rate of speed on their residential street. The neighbor walked over to the Defendant's home and they had an altercation.  The neighbor called the police, who then went to the Defendant's home and knocked on the front door.  

The Defendant answered the door and when he spoke to the police the officer noted that the Defendant's eyes were bloodshot, he smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred and he held onto the front door to keep his balance.  The police officer never entered the home but spoke to the Defendant from the front porch.

The Defendant told the officer that he had just come home from a bar and had driven past the complaining-neighbor's house. Based upon the Defendant's condition and statements, officer believed the Defendant had been driving while intoxicated.

The officer then asked the Defendant to come out of his house to perform some field sobriety tests; Defendant said it was his house and the officer should not be there. The officer said he did not want to have to come in and get Defendant, but would do so if necessary, and that Defendant would be arrested for DWI in any event. 

Defendant then came out of the house and attempted to perform the field sobriety tests. He failed a preliminary breath test (PBT). The officer determined that he had probable cause to arrest Defendant and arrested him. Defendant was taken to a police station, where the implied consent advisory was read to him, and he provided a breath sample; it indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.19.

The Defendant was charged with misdemeanor DWI but he moved to suppress all of the evidence on the grounds he had been illegally seized from his residence.  The District Court agreed with the Defendant and ruled that the seizure was not lawful because the Defendant was "coerced and threatened into leaving the sanctuary of his house".

It is well established in Minnesota that the police may not enter a home to make a misdemeanor arrest unless they are "in hot pursuit" of a suspect but that was not the case here.  In this case, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court because there was no "entry" into the residence.  Or as stated by the Court of Appeals:

"Here, the officer knocked and remained on the porch while he talked to defendant. There was no "warrantless entry of  a family residence" because the officer stood in the open doorway"..."For Fourth-Amendment purposes, an open doorway is a public place. United States v. Santana, All U.S. 38, 42, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 2409 (1976). A defendant who is in a public place when officers initiate an arrest may not thwart the arrest by retreating into his residence. Id. at 43, 96 S. Ct. at 2410. Defendant opened the door of his house to the police officer and, while they were in the open doorway, gave the officer probable cause to arrest him by displaying several indicia of intoxication and admitting that he had just driven home from a bar where he had been drinking. Having done these things, Defendant had no right to thwart his arrest by retreating into his house. See id. at 42-43, 96 S. Ct. at 2409-10 (stating that a defendant's "act of retreating into her house could [not] thwart an otherwise proper arrest" and concluding that the officer's following the defendant into her house was "hot pursuit" and justified his warrantless entry). If Defendant had retreated into his house and the officer, without a warrant, had followed him, the warrantless entry of Defedant's house would have been justified."

MORAL OF THE STORY: A man's home is not his castle until he shuts the door!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Minneapolis DUI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DUI Case Of The Week is State v. Halverson, which stands for the proposition that if the registered owner of a vehicle has a driver's license that is revoked, the police may stop the vehicle even if they do not know who is driving as long as the police do not have information which is inconsistent with the physical  description of the owner.

In Halverson. the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department received a call on June 27, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.  The caller  reported that a blue BMW with license plates 145-GMG was driving extremely slowly and weaving all over the road.  The police responded to the call and eventually found the vehicle, unoccupied,  parked in a parking lot.  The police ran a computer check and found that the vehicle was registered to the defendant and that her license was revoked.

Two hours later, the police saw the vehicle leave the parking lot and they initiated a traffic stop of the automobile.  The Defendant was behind the wheel and she smelled of alcohol.  She subsequently failed some field sobriety tests and was arrested for DWI.

The Defendant filed a motion to suppress all of the evidence alleging that the initial stop was unconstitutional.  The district court ruled that the stop was lawful and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, noting:

"State v. Pike is dispositive of the issue in this case. 551 N.W.2d 919 (Minn. 1996). In Pike, an officer observed a vehicle traveling at a low speed, became suspicious, ran a computer check, and discovered that the registered owner of the vehicle had a revoked driver's license. Id. at 921. The officer observed that the driver of the vehicle was a man who appeared to be in the same age category as the registered owner and stopped the vehicle. Id. at 920-21."

"The supreme court held that 'it is not unconstitutional for an officer to make a brief, investigatory, Terry-type stop of a vehicle if the officer knows that the owner of the vehicle has a revoked license so long as the officer remains unaware of any facts which would render unreasonable an assumption that the owner is driving the vehicle.' Id. at 922. The supreme court reasoned that '[w]hen an officer observes a vehicle being driven, it is rational for him or her to infer that the owner of the vehicle is the current operator." Id. However, such an inference would be unreasonable when, for example, the officer knows "that the owner is a 22-year-old male, and the officer observes that the person driving the vehicle is a 50- or 60-year-old woman.' Id."

"Halverson contends that the facts of this case fall within the Pike exception. Halverson argues that "[u]nlike the officer in Pike, Rosati did not have any information about the appearance of either the earlier or later driver to create the reasonable inference that the revoked registered owner was the driver." She further argues that "without this information, any reasonable suspicion that the driver was the primary owner with a revoked license evaporated.'"

"Halverson misconstrues Pike's holding. Pike does not require an officer to observe or otherwise confirm that a driver's physical appearance is consistent with that of the vehicle's registered owner before stopping the vehicle based on the owner's revoked status. To the contrary, '[w]hen an officer observes a vehicle being driven, it is rational for him or her to infer that the owner of the vehicle is the current operator.' Id. Thus, Officer Rosati's failure to observe the driver's appearance before stopping the vehicle does not invalidate the stop."

Moral Of The Story:  If your license is revoked, don't take a bad situation worse by drinking and getting behind the wheel!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DUI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DUI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.


  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Stoneburner v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided August 8, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police do not have to prove that you were speeding in order to stop you for speeding.

In Stoneburner, Cold Spring-Richmond police officer Christi Hoffman, (who had more than twelve years of law-enforcement experience), was on patrol in the city of Richmond, Minnesota. Hoffman was traveling eastbound when she noticed a westbound car on Highway 23 that she estimated was traveling over the posted 50-mile-per-hour speed limit. Hoffman activated her squad car radar unit to confirm her visual observation. The target car was about one-half mile away at that point, which is within the radar-unit range. The radar unit showed speeds of 62, 61, and 60, at which point she locked the display, confirming her visual estimate of speed. Hoffman stopped the car, which was driven by appellant Robert David Stoneburner.

After noticing some indicia of intoxication, the officer had Mr. Stoneburner perform some field sobriety tests which, according to the officer, he failed.  Mr. Stoneburner was placed under arrest and subsequently submitted to a breath test which revealed an alcohol concentration level in excess of .08.

Mr. Stoneburner challenged the revocation of his driver's license challenging Hoffman's ability to make a visual estimate of speed and primarily claiming that the radar device had not been properly calibrated because Hoffman testified that she performed only a limited internal calibration test, and not an external calibration measurement.

The district court sustained Stoneburner's license revocation, concluding that Hoffman had a reasonable and articulable basis for stopping Stoneburner's car based on her visual observation of speed.  

On Appeal, Stoneburner argued that the radar evidence did not provide a particularized and objective basis for the stop because Hoffman did not comply with Minn. Stat. § 169.14, subd. 10(a) (2014). This section states that "[i]n any prosecution in which the rate of speed of a motor vehicle is relevant" radar evidence is admissible if (1) the officer has been trained to operate the device; (2) the officer can describe how the device was set up and operated; (3) there was only minimal interference or distortion in the surrounding environment; and (4) the device was subject to testing by an external method that is accurate and reliable. Stoneburner argued that Hoffman did not testify about a reliable external testing mechanism and, therefore, she had no particularized and objective basis for the stop.

The Court of Appeals rejected Stoneburner's argument and affirmed the district court stating, "Minnesota courts have approved the use of visual speed estimation when the witness has an opportunity to observe the subject vehicle and has experience with estimating the speed of moving vehicles, particularly when the witness, like Hoffman, has years of law-enforcement experience and training." And, "...the issue here is not whether the state or the commissioner can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stoneburner was exceeding the speed limit prior to the stop; the issue is whether Hoffman had a "particularized and objective basis for suspecting" that Stoneburner was violating the law."

In this case, "Hoffman testified to specific facts that led her to conclude that Stoneburner was violating the law: she visually observed a car that appeared to be exceeding the speed limit; she had received training in estimating the speed of moving vehicles; and her radar unit, even if not properly calibrated, confirmed her visual observation. The district court found that Hoffman was a credible witness. Because these facts provided a basis for a brief investigatory stop, the district court did not err by determining that the stop was lawful."

Moral of The Story: If you even look guilty, the police can stop you!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Frank v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided July 25, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police will "tailor" their testimony to avoid the impact of a previous appellate court decision.

In this case, Mr. Frank was driving his pickup truck in Crow Wing County at approximately 12:35 a.m.  A police officer was driving his squad in the opposite direction and as the two vehicle approached each other, Mr. Frank flashed his bright lights, "very briefly". The police officer then turned around and stopped Mr. Frank, who was subsequently arrested for DWI.

Mr. Frank challenged the validity of the stop of his vehicle in a license revocation hearing but the district court upheld the revocation.  

Minn. Stat. § 169.61(b) provides that, "[w]hen the driver of a vehicle approaches a vehicle within 1,000 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver." But in Sarber v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 819 N.W.2d 465 at 471-472 (Minn. App. 2012) the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the statute, "Does not prohibit drivers from momentarily flashing their high beams at oncoming traffic, so long as the flashing is brief and conducted in such a manner that it does not blind or impair other drivers." 

So what did the officer testify to in this case?  The officer testified "that appellant's headlights were 'extremely bright,' to the extent that they 'literally just about blinded [him].' The officer testified that he pulled onto the shoulder and stopped because he was blinded by appellant's headlights. 

RIGHT! The problem is the district court bought the officer's testimony and on appeal, the appellate court will not reverse a finding of fact unless it is clearly erroneous as the appellate court is not in any position to judge the credibility of a witness.

Moral Of The Story: Be careful who you flash!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Puro v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided July 5, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which contains a good discussion of "physical control".

In Puro, the Appellant went to a restaurant and began consuming alcohol.  Around 4:00 p.m., the bartender asked Mr. Puro to leave because he was getting rowdy from having had too much to drink.  Mr. Puro left the restaurant and made his way to his wife's Subaru which was parked in the restaurant's parking lot.  Mr. Puro fell asleep in the car and was subsequently discovered by the police.

The officer approached the Subaru and tapped on the window to try to wake up Mr. Puro who was sitting in the driver's seat but the engine was not running.  Mr. Puro appeared startled and subsequently opened the car door to speak to the officer.  The keys to the vehicle were located on the floor beneath the feet of Mr. Puro.

Mr. Puro was arrested for DWI and he challenged the revocation of his driver's license arguing that the police did not have probable cause to believe he was "in physical control" of a motor vehicle.  The district court concluded that the state proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Puro was in physical control and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed, stating:

"Under Minnesota's implied-consent law, the state may revoke a person's license if he is in physical control of a vehicle in order to "deter intoxicated persons from getting into vehicles except as passengers and to act as a preventive measure to enable the drunken driver to be apprehended before he strikes." State v. Fleck, 111 N.W.2d 233, 236 (Minn. 2010) (quotation omitted). The term "in physical control" includes "when an intoxicated person is found in a parked vehicle under circumstances in which the vehicle, without too much difficulty, might again be started and become a source of danger to the operator, to others, or to property." Id. (alteration omitted) (quotation omitted). A person is in physical control of a vehicle if the person has the means to initiate any movement and is close to the operating controls of the vehicle."

"But a person is not in physical control when the person has 'relinquished control of the vehicle to a designated driver."'Id. And presence in the vehicle by itself is not enough to show physical control. Id. This court examines the overall situation to make the determination, which includes the examination of a number of factors "including: the person's location in proximity to the vehicle; the location of the keys; whether the person was a passenger in the vehicle; who owned the vehicle; and the vehicle's operability." Id. Whether a person intends to drive is not part of the analysis in determining if the person was in physical control."

"Here, the officer found Puro alone, intoxicated, and asleep or passed out in the legally parked and operable Subaru. Puro, like Fleck, was in the driver's seat. The keys, which were on the floor between his feet, were readily accessible to him. He could have picked up the keys, started the vehicle, and tried to drive home." Therefore, the district court was correct in finding that Mr. Puro was in physical control of a motor vehicle.

Moral Of The Story: If you have been drinking, do not get into a car except as a passenger!!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Raskovich v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided June 13, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police do not need to see you drive, operate or physically control a motor vehicle for your license to be revoked for DWI.

In Raskovich, Shakopee police officers responded to a report of a drunk and disorderly patron at a hair salon. The salon owner identified the patron as Jodie Raskovich.  The officers approached Ms. Kaskovich as she left the salon and observed indicia of intoxication.  Ms. Raskovich admitted she had consumed "a couple" of drinks at lunch before driving to the salon and denied consuming any alcohol after she arrived to have her hair done.  Ms. Raskovich was eventually arrested and submitted to testing which yielded a breath alcohol result of .195.

Ms. Raskovich challenged the revocation of her license but the revocation was sustained by the district court. On appeal, she argued that the evidence was insufficient to justify the revocation of her license. The Minnesota Court of Appeals, however, affirmed the revocation, stating:

"In a judicial review hearing for a driver's license revocation under the implied-consent statute, the commissioner must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that license revocation is appropriate." Axelberg, 831 N.W.2d at 684. License revocation is appropriate only if the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that the petitioner was driving while impaired. See Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.51, subd. 1 (providing that peace officer may invoke implied-consent law on probable cause to believe the person was driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle in violation of section 169A.20 (driving while impaired)), .53, subd. 3(b) (providing that scope of implied-consent hearing includes question, "Did the peace officer have probable cause to believe the person was driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle ... in violation of section 169A.20 (driving while impaired)?") (2014). Such probable cause exists "whenever there are facts and circumstances known to the officer which would warrant a prudent man in believing that the individual was driving or was operating or was in physical control of a motor vehicle while impaired." State v. Koppi, 798 N.W.2d 358, 362 (Minn. 2011) (quotation omitted)."

Here the officer testified that Raskovich admitted drinking before driving to the salon and she denied drinking after she arrived. The officer also found Ms. Raskovich's vehicle in the parking lot of the salon. "We conclude that the facts and circumstances known to the officer would warrant a prudent person to believe that Raskovich was driving a vehicle while impaired and that the testimony, therefore, is sufficient to affirm the revocation of her license".

Moral Of The Story:  It is never a good idea to talk to the police.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Walsh v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided May 23, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands, once again, for the proposition that the police do not need probable cause to conduct field sobriety tests and a PBT test. I disagree but I am not on the Court of Appeals.

In Walsh, on January 30, 2015, Deputy Ryan Googins heard over his police radio that someone had called in a driving complaint. The caller identified himself and reported that he had seen a female in a vehicle at a Kwik Trip consuming what looked like small, airline-sized bottles of alcohol. The caller stated that when he made eye contact with the driver, she became nervous and drove away. The caller noted the vehicle's license-plate number, provided it to the police, and stated that he last saw the vehicle traveling south on Highway 3 from the Kwik Trip.

Deputy Googins spotted the vehicle and saw it turn into the Dakota County Library parking lot and park in an available space. Deputy Googins pulled into the parking lot, activated his lights, and parked behind the vehicle. As Deputy Googins approached appellant Shannon Forstrom Walsh, she was eating crackers and exiting her vehicle. Deputy Googins noticed an overwhelming odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. When Deputy Googins asked appellant about the odor, she replied that she had not been drinking and suggested that the smell was coming from the crackers. Deputy Googins also noticed that appellant's eyes were watery and bloodshot.

Deputy Googins asked appellant to step out of the vehicle and take a series of tests. Appellant performed the horizontal-gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and one-leg-stand tests and exhibited indicia of intoxication on all three tests, though the indicia of intoxication were subtle on the one-leg-stand test. Deputy Googins administered a PBT and placed appellant under arrest for driving while impaired (DWI). Deputy Googins read appellant the implied-consent advisory. Appellant declined to consult with an attorney. Deputy Googins offered appellant a breath test, and appellant agreed to take it. The test indicated that appellant's alcohol concentration was 0.12.

The District Court upheld the revocation of the Appellant's driver's license and on appeal, she argued that the field sobriety tests and PBT are subject to the "probable cause" and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals, however, rejected this argument stating:

"Appellant's position is inconsistent with the applicable caselaw. An officer needs only reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity to administer field sobriety tests and a PBT. State, Dep 't of Pub. Safety v. Juncewski, 308 N.W.2d 316, 321 (Minn. 1981); State v. Klamar, 823 N.W.2d 687, 696 (Minn. App. 2012) (holding that administration of field sobriety testing based on officer's observations of odor of alcohol and Klamar's bloodshot and watery eyes was reasonable); State v. Vievering, 383 N.W.2d 729, 730 (Minn. App. 1986) (stating that an officer may request a PBT on the basis of specific and articulable facts), review denied (Mi\m. May 16, 1986). Appellant's reliance on Colorado and Oregon law is thus unpersuasive because it is contrary to binding Minnesota precedent."

Far be it for the Court of Appeals to change its mind.  And while it can be argued that field sobriety tests merely require a person to demonstrate their physical characteristics, (such as their ability to balance) and no "search" is involved in such tests, the same cannot be said for a preliminary breath test.  A PBT requires a person to blow a specified volume of air into a machine and the air is then analyzed for alcohol.  The PBT test is a search just like the Data Master test performed at the police station.  And to claim that the PBT test does not require probable cause is just plain wrong.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.