Monday, May 8, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Voss (Decided May 8, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you assault someone and then drive away drunk, the two crimes are not a part of the "same behavioral incident".

In Voss, Maple Grove Police Officer J.R. Ohnstad received a report of an assault in the City of Maple Grove. When Officer Ohnstad arrived at the address to investigate the report, he saw that the victim's lip had started to swell and change color. The victim stated that he was driving home when he noticed a driver tailgating him. The victim reported that the tailgating driver displayed his middle finger while continuing to follow him. The victim described the driver as a white male, with a crewcut, and reported that the man was driving a white Chevy Silverado with military plates.  As the victim turned onto a side street to reach his home, the tailgating driver did not follow him, and instead drove past him. The tailgating driver then did a U-turn and drove in the direction of the victim's neighborhood. As the victim parked his car in his driveway and stepped out of his vehicle, the other driver parked the Chevy Silverado behind the victim's car and stepped out of the truck. The driver punched the victim in the face, knocking him to the ground. The driver then raised his fist and approached the victim's mother—who had emerged from the victim's house—as if he intended to hit her, but instead returned to his vehicle and drove away.

Sergeant Steve Sarazin of the Rogers Police Department heard the dispatch report over the police radio. Within four miles of the assault and several minutes after the report, Sergeant Sarazin saw a white male with a crewcut driving a white pickup truck with military plates. Sergeant Sarazin noted the similarities to the dispatch description and stopped the white pickup truck to question the driver, who police later identified as Voss. Sergeant Sarazin noticed several indicia of intoxication, including a strong odor of alcohol, slurred and deliberate speech, and glassy eyes. As he continued to speak to the driver, a Maple Grove police officer arrived on the scene with the victim, and the victim positively identified the driver as the individual who punched him.

The City of Rogers charged Voss with two counts of driving while impaired. In a separate complaint, the City of Maple Grove charged Voss with three counts of misdemeanor assault (counts I-III), one count of disorderly conduct (count IV), and one count of careless driving (count V). Voss pleaded guilty to the City of Rogers' fourth-degree driving-while-impaired charge and sought dismissal of the City of Maple Grove's remaining charges.   At the omnibus hearing, Voss argued that allowing the City of Maple Grove to charge counts I-V would result in serialized prosecution, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.035.

The district court dismissed the remaining charges because the court found that they arose from the same behavioral incident.

On appeal by the State, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, noting:

"Minnesota Statutes section 609.035 bars multiple punishments for offenses that arise from the same behavioral incident. Minn. Stat. § 609.035, subd. 1 ("[I]f a person's conduct constitutes more than one offense under the laws of this state, the person may be punished for only one of the offenses and a conviction or acquittal of any one of them is a bar to prosecution for any other of them."). When a person is charged with multiple offenses, a district court must examine the offenses charged to determine whether they "resulted from a single behavioral incident." State v. Johnson, 273 Minn. 394, 404, 141 N.W.2d 517, 524 (1966). In these instances, multiple prosecutions are strictly prohibited to 'protect a defendant convicted of multiple offenses against unfair exaggeration of the criminality of his conduct.' State v. Norregaard, 384 N.W.2d 449, 449 (Minn. 1986)."

"Minnesota law provides two separate tests for determining whether multiple offenses arose from the same behavioral incident. State v. Bauer, 792 N.W.2d 825, 827-28 (Minn. 2011) {Bauer II). The first test applies only if the offenses at issue are multiple intentional crimes; the second test applies when the challenged offenses include both intentional and nonintentional crimes. Bauer I, 776 N.W.2d at 478. We agree with both parties that the second test applies. Under the second test, Minnesota courts consider whether the offenses "(1) occurred at substantially the same time and place and (2) arose from a continuing and uninterrupted course of conduct, manifesting an indivisible state of mind or coincident errors of judgment." Id. (quotation and citation omitted)."

"With regard to the first part of this test, the district court correctly found that the two offenses 'occurred at substantially the same time and place.'...With regard to the second portion of the test, the driving-while-impaired offenses and the assault-related offenses did not arise from "a continuing and uninterrupted course of conduct, manifesting an indivisible state of mind or coincident errors of judgment." Bauer I, 776 N.W.2d at 478 (quotation and citation omitted). In this case, Voss engaged in at least two entirely separate offenses. Voss committed the first offense, assault, when he parked his vehicle in the victim's driveway, exited his truck, approached the victim, and punched the victim in the face, knocking the victim to the ground. Voss then stepped back into his truck and drove away. When Sergeant Sarazin stopped Voss to investigate the assault report, he noticed several indicia of intoxication and, after Voss failed the sobriety testing, the City of Rogers charged Voss with driving while impaired, the second offense. The record conclusively shows that Voss engaged in two separate and distinct offenses— driving while impaired and assault. "

"Because the remaining counts did not arise from a single behavioral incident, and because the City of Rogers and the City of Maple Grove were entitled to bring subsequent prosecutions in separate jurisdictions due to the nature of the offenses, we reverse."

Moral Of The Story: There is nothing worse than a mean drunk!

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






Monday, May 1, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Dhimbil (Decided May 1. 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that sometimes it is okay to ask if another witness is lying.

In Dhimbil, appellant and two other individuals were traveling westbound on Highway 94 in a silver Toyota Camry registered to appellant.   A witness, J.R., saw appellant's car "[d]riving out of control," making "very sporadic turns," driving at excessive speeds, and making "quick lane changes, even into almost the ditch." J.R. called 911 to report the incident. While on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, J.R. saw appellant's car "spin out, potentially even hit the median barrier, and spin and go into the ditch." J.R. saw appellant exit from the driver's side of the car, while the two passengers exited from the passenger's side. Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Jim Swanson responded to the emergency call and, upon arriving at the scene, saw appellant's car in the ditch and the car's three occupants standing on the side of the road.

Swanson noticed that appellant was leaning heavily on the two other individuals for support and smelled of alcohol. One of the passengers told the officer that appellant had been driving the car. Swanson asked the three men if they were wearing seat belts, and asked to see their shoulders to check for seat-belt marks. Appellant had marks on his upper left chest and shoulder, indicating that he was seated in the front driver's side of the car. Swanson then conducted field sobriety tests, which appellant failed, and administered a preliminary breath test, which revealed an alcohol concentration of 0.256. Based upon his training and experience, Swanson concluded that appellant was driving while impaired. 

The appellant was convicted of DWI and on appeal, alleged that the prosecutor committed misconduct by asking the appellant if the state's witnesses were lying when they identified the appellant as the driver of the vehicle.  The following exchange occurred at trial:


THE PROSECUTOR: Sir, you told [the officer] that there was a fourth person who was driving the car, correct?

THE DEFENDANT: I never did.

THE PROSECUTOR: So, sir, your testimony here today is that [the officer] lied to us yesterday when he was here in the courtroom?

THE DEFENDANT: He did.

THE PROSECUTOR: Sir, you're claiming before this jury that everything that your friend Hassan Osman said yesterday in front of this jury was a lie? Yes or no?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, he did. He lied.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected the appellant's contention stating:

"Were they lying"  questions  generally "have no probative value  and are improper and argumentative because they do nothing to assist the jury in assessing witness credibility in its fact-finding mission and in determining the ultimate issue of guilt or innocence." State v. Pilot, 595 N.W.2d 511, 518 (Minn. 1999).  But Minnesota has not adopted a "blanket rule of law" prohibiting such questions because "[situations may arise where 'were they lying' questions may have a probative value in clarifying a particular line of testimony, in evaluating the credibility of a witness claiming that everyone but the witness lied or [where] the witness flatly denies the occurrence of events."  Id.   "[S]uch questions are permitted when the defendant [places] the issue of the credibility of the state's witnesses in central focus." State v. Morton, 701 N.W.2d 225, 233 (Minn. 2005) (quoting Pilot, 595 N.W.2d at 517); see also State v. Leutschaft, 759 N.W.2d 414, 422 (Minn. App. 2009) (noting that the "central focus" test applies when the defense expressly accuses opposing witnesses of fabrications or falsehoods)."

"We determine that the prosecutor's questions were not improper because appellant placed witness credibility squarely in issue. Appellant testified during cross-examination that the state's witnesses were lying.  The defense counsel asserted, in both his opening statement and closing argument, that testimony from the state's witnesses was 'coerced.'" 

The Court of Appeals, therefore, affirmed the District Court as the appellant chose to place the credibility of the state's witnesses directly in issue.

Moral Of The Story:  If you are going to accuse a witness of lying, don't be shy about it!

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









Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Schlicher v. Commissioner of Public Safety, (Decided April 17, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the idle curiosity of the police officer does not justify an automobile stop.

In Schlicher, a Wabasha police officer on patrol saw appellant David Kenneth Schlicher's car turn onto a narrow dirt road. The officer knew the private road led only to a commercial business, which was closed at that hour, so he followed appellant. As the officer drove down the dirt road, he observed appellant's vehicle coming toward him. The officer reversed his squad car because the road was too narrow for either car to drive past the other, and he "[did not] want to approach the vehicle from the front." The officer stopped his squad car near the end of the dirt road and exited his car. During this time, another police squad car arrived. Schlicher's car was still moving when the officer got out of his squad car. The officer approached the car and, after an investigation, arrested appellant for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Schlicher refused to take a breath test, and his license was revoked.

Schlicher filed a petition in district court challenging the revocation of his driving privileges and requesting a hearing. After the hearing the district court ruled, "that the officer's stop was constitutional and stated that, "the officer observed Schlicher vehicle turn into a narrow private dirt drive that led to a business which had been closed for hours . . . [which] gave the officer a reasonable articulable basis" to stop the appellant.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court stating:

"Under the Minnesota Constitution, a seizure occurs when, given the totality of the circumstances, "a reasonable person in the defendant's shoes would have concluded that he or she was not free to leave." In re Welfare of E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 780 (Minn. 1993)."

"Generally, no seizure occurs when an officer merely walks up to and speaks with a driver sitting in an already-stopped vehicle." Id. at 152. Conversely, with an already-stopped car, a police officer's actions of preventing a vehicle from moving by boxing the vehicle in and activating the squad car's sirens constitute a seizure because these actions create the impression that a reasonable person would believe that he or she is not free to leave."

"Here, the officer's squad car met appellant's vehicle head-on while appellant was driving down the private narrow road, toward the main road. The officer did not reverse his squad car out onto the main road, which would have given appellant complete access to the main road; instead, he stopped his car on the narrow dirt road, exited his vehicle, and began walking toward appellant's car while appellant was still driving toward him. Even though the officer believed appellant's car could have "squeezed by," appellant testified that he did not believe his car could drive past the officer's car in order to get to the main road.  Accordingly, considering the positioning of the officer's squad car on the narrow road, the fact that the officer exited his vehicle while appellant was still driving, and the fact that another squad car had arrived on scene, we conclude that the officer's actions constituted a seizure because no reasonable person in appellant's position would have felt free to leave."

"An investigative stop of a motor vehicle is a seizure, and in order to justify the stop, police must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity....Here, the officer did not articulate an objective basis for the seizure. There are no allegations that the officer became concerned with appellant's conduct, other than the fact that appellant was driving down a private narrow dirt road that led to a closed commercial business. In fact, the officer testified that his actions were motivated by his curiosity. This alone is insufficient to justify a seizure...The only factors to which the officer testified that would suggest criminal activity were the time of night, that he had never before seen anyone driving on that private narrow road, and that the narrow road led to a closed business. These factors are insufficient."

Moral Of The Story: Curiosity Can Kill Your Case!

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, April 11, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Trousil (Decided April 11, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police do not have to get a search warrant for a blood sample if they don't have time to obtain one.

In Trousil, on September 27, 2014, Deputy Wacker and Deputy Stern of the Douglas County Sheriffs Office were dispatched to an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. At some point, Sergeant Windhurst joined the deputies on the scene. They found the ATV tipped over on its side and the driver, Trousil, injured and lying in a ditch. Trousil had difficulty remaining conscious and smelled of alcohol. An ambulance arrived and Sergeant Windhurst contacted the county attorney's office, who advised the officers to get a warrant if Trousil would stay at Douglas County Hospital, but to have blood drawn if Trousil was going to be flown to another hospital within a short period of time.

Sergeant Windhurst contacted the county attorney's office, who advised the officers to get a warrant if Trousil would stay at Douglas County Hospital, but to have blood drawn if Trousil was going to be flown to another hospital within a short period of time.

In the meantime, Deputy Wacker asked a nurse at Douglas County Hospital if Trousil was going to be flown to a different hospital. The nurse told Deputy Wacker that they intended to fly Trousil to St. Cloud Hospital, and the flight crew said that they intended to leave in 15 to 20 minutes. Deputy Wacker believed that Trousil might not remain at St. Cloud Hospital due to the severity of his injuries and decided that there was insufficient time to obtain a warrant. Deputy Wacker requested that Douglas County Hospital staff perform a blood draw. The hospital did so at 2:20 a.m. Deputy Wacker notified Deputy Stern that Douglas County Hospital was transferring Trousil to St. Cloud Hospital, and thus Deputy Stern did not complete the warrant application.

The blood test sample result revealed an alcohol concentration level of .214 and Trousil was subsequently charged with second and third degree DWI.  Before trial, Trousil moved to suppress the results of the alcohol-concentration test obtained from the warrantless blood draw. The district court denied the motion, concluding that exigent circumstances absolved the officers of the warrant requirement.

On appeal, Trousil argued that the warrantless blood draw was unconstitutional because the officers had sufficient time to obtain a telephonic warrant and, therefore, no exception to the warrant requirement applied to this case.  Unfortunately, the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed, stating:

"An exception to the warrant requirement exists if the state can show that 'the exigencies of the situation make the needs of law enforcement so compelling that the warrantless search is objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.' Mincey v. Arizona, All U.S. 385, 394, 98 S. Ct. 2408, 2414 (1978) (quotation omitted). Exigent circumstances may exist when 'there is a compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant.' Michigan v. Tyler, 436 U.S. 499, 509, 98 S. Ct. 1942, 1949 (1978)."

The Court of Appeals then noted, "The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a warrantless blood draw under the exigent-circumstances exception in State v. Stavish, 868 N.W.2d 670 (Minn. 2015). The Minnesota Supreme Court found the following circumstances relevant: (1) law enforcement had reason to believe that the accused was intoxicated at the time of the accident; (2) the accused sustained serious injuries that necessitated emergency treatment; (3) the need for medical treatment rendered the future availability of a blood draw uncertain; (4) the officer did not know how long the accused would remain at the same hospital or whether further medical care would preclude obtaining a sample; (5) the accused might be transported to a different hospital; and (6) it was important to draw the accused's blood within the statutory two-hour period."

"This case presents similar facts to Stavish. Deputy Wacker believed that Trousil was intoxicated at the time of the accident because he could smell alcohol on his person. Trousil was having trouble remaining conscious, was badly injured by the accident, and needed emergency care. It took additional time for an ambulance to bring Trousil to Douglas County Hospital and for the deputies to notify Trousil's parents of the accident. Sergeant Windhurst remained at the scene waiting for a tow truck. Thus, none of the three officers were available to begin the warrant process until 1:55 a.m. At that point, Deputy Stern returned to the office to seek a warrant. Around that same time, hospital staff notified Deputy Wacker that Trousil would be airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital in 15 to 20 minutes. Deputy Wacker also believed that Trousil might be taken to a different hospital after St. Cloud because of the severity of his injuries. Notice of the airlift gave the officers only 15 to 20 minutes to seek a warrant. Additionally, over an hour and a half passed between the time of the accident and the administering of the blood draw. To satisfy Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(5) (2014), the blood draw had to be administered within two hours of driving."

"Because exigent circumstances absolved the officers of the warrant requirement in this case, the district court did not err in denying Trousil's motion to suppress the results of the alcohol-concentration test obtained from a warrantless blood draw."

Moral Of The Story:  If you have been injured and are in the hospital, force the police to get a warrant by not allowing the doctors to move you to a different location.



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







Monday, March 27, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. LaBatte, (Decided March 27, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished), which stands for the proposition that it does not take much for police to be authorized to turn a simple traffic stop into a DWI investigation.

In LaBatte, a police officer working for the Upper Sioux Community Police Department observed a vehicle come to a rolling stop at a stop sign. He activated his squad car's emergency lights, approached the vehicle, and spoke with the driver, appellant LaBatte.  The officer observed that LaBatte's voice was low and raspy and that he had droopy eyelids. The officer, who recognized LaBatte from previous contact, testified at a suppression hearing that he had not observed these characteristics in LaBatte before. According to the officer, LaBatte also seemed anxious and restless, and he appeared disoriented and had difficulty finding and removing his driver's license from his wallet. He kept wiping his hands on his pants, which the officer recognized from his training and experience in drug evaluation as a possible response when a person is nervous and under the influence of a drug that increases heart rate and causes sweating. Based on his training and experience, the officer believed that LaBatte could be impaired by a stimulant.

After running LaBatte's driver's license, the officer reapproached the vehicle and had LaBatte undertake field sobriety tests, which LaBatte had difficulty performing. Following the field sobriety tests and a breath test, the officer arrested LaBatte on suspicion of driving while impaired and placed him in the back of the squad car.

When they arrived at the jail, the officer performed a drug evaluation of LaBatte in the jail booking room.  The officer asked LaBatte when the puncture marks on his arms dated from. LaBatte replied, "Five days ago." The officer asked, "Free party hit or what?" LaBatte responded, "Pretty much."

The state charged LaBatte with first-degree driving while impaired under the influence of a controlled substance and LaBatte moved to suppress evidence resulting from the stop, arguing that there was no reasonable suspicion of additional illegal activity to justify expansion of the stop by performing field sobriety testing.

The District Court denied the motion to suppress and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, stating:

"Police may execute a traffic stop if they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (citation omitted).  Under the Minnesota Constitution, any incremental intrusion during a stop must be justified by and tied to either (1) the circumstances that permitted the original stop, (2) independent probable cause, or (3) reasonableness under Terry.  Thus, to expand the scope of a stop to investigate additional illegal activity, an officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion of that other illegal activity."

"LaBatte points out that a driver's nervous behavior alone has been held not to justify expansion of a stop, absent other indications supplying reasonable suspicion....But here, the officer, who had received training as a state-certified drug recognition evaluator, did not just note LaBatte's nervous behavior, raspy voice, and droopy eyelids. He also observed that LaBatte appeared disoriented and had difficulty removing his driver's license from his wallet. The officer was permitted to consider all of these observations together in determining whether reasonable suspicion existed to support expansion of the stop by asking LaBatte to perform field sobriety testing." 

"Here, the district court's findings on reasonable suspicion are not clearly erroneous, and under the totality of the circumstances, LaBatte's behavior provided a sufficient basis for the officer to develop reasonable suspicion of additional illegal activity to support expansion of the stop".

Yikes!! Who doest not get nervous when stopped by the police?

Moral Of The Story: If you get pulled over stay calm and relaxed as we all know that a traffic stop by a uniformed police officer is just like going to the Spa! 


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.










Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Thomas (Decided March 22, 2017, Minnesota Supreme Court) which stands for the proposition that in defending a Minnesota DWI case, sometimes it is best to keep your mouth shut!

In Thomas, the defendant was charged with 2nd Degree DWI  (a gross misdemeanor) because the State alleged he had 2 prior impaired driving incidents within the past ten years.  The State specifically relied upon the defendant's 2007 Minnesota DWI license revocation and a 2006 DWI conviction from Wisconsin.

The defendant pled not guilty and the case proceeded to trial.  In Minnesota, a defendant can stipulate to the existence of the prior offenses to remove that information from the jury's consideration.  The rationale is that even though the priors are an element of the offense, they are prejudicial and may make the jury more inclined to convict in the present case.  So if a defendant wants to stipulate to their existence outside the presence of the jury the matter can proceed to trial without the jury being informed of the defendant's DWI history.

In this case, the defendant refused to stipulate to the existence of his prior convictions and the matter then proceeded to trial. The State presented its case-in-chief, calling two witnesses—the police officers involved in the case—to show that Thomas was in physical control of a motor vehicle within 2 hours of having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. But the State rested without offering the certified copies showing Thomas' prior impaired driving incidents!!

Outside the jury's presence, Thomas made a "motion for a directed verdict to the charge of second degree DWI." Thomas argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the charged offense without the certified copies showing the prior incidents. The prosecutor responded that she had the certified copies "here" and made a motion to re-open its case-in-chief in order to offer the certified copies into evidence.

The district court granted the State's motion to reopen. The court relied on case law and the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure to conclude that it had the discretion to allow the State to reopen its case-in-chief to submit the omitted evidence. The court reasoned that Thomas had ample notice that his 2007 loss of license and 2006 prior conviction were going to be part of the case against him, and that the State failed to offer the evidence through inadvertence. Having granted the State's motion to reopen, the court indicated that it was denying Thomas' motion for acquittal "at this point on that basis."

The defendant was subsequently convicted of 2nd Degree DWI and on appeal, he contended that under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 18(1), the district court was required to immediately rule on his motion for judgment of acquittal before considering the State's motion to reopen its case-in-chief.

Thomas argued that under Rule 26.03, subdivision 18(l)(a), "[a]t the close of evidence for either party, the defendant may move for ... a judgment of acquittal on one or more of the charges if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." And when the defendant makes a motion for acquittal at the close of the State's case, "the court must rule on the motion." Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 18(2). But when the defendant's motion is made at the close of the defendant's case, "the court may reserve ruling on the motion, submit the case to the jury, and rule before or after verdict." 

Because the court is able to "reserve" ruling on the motion only when the motion is made at the close of the defendant's case, Thomas argues that the court had no authority to defer ruling on his motion, which was made at the close of the State's case. And, focusing on the phrase "must rule on the motion," Thomas contends that the plain language of Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 18(2), requires a district court to immediately rule on a motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's case before ruling on the State's motion to reopen.

In its opinion, the  Minnesota Supreme Court rejects the defendant's argument stating, "Thomas is essentially asking us to read the word 'immediately' into the phrase 'must rule on the motion.' But we are not permitted to add words or phrases to the text of an unambiguous rule. (citation omitted). Reading the two sentences of subdivision 18 together, it is clear that the district court cannot reserve ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal that is made at the close of the State's case until after the defense has offered evidence."

"Put differently, the phrase 'must rule on the motion' requires that a court rule on the defendant's motion before moving on to the next stage of the trial....But the rule says nothing about whether the district court may, as the district court did here, first decide whether to permit the State to reopen its case. In other words, the rule does not address the order in which the district court was required to address the two motions made in this case. Moreover, requiring the district court to rule on the motion for judgment of acquittal before ruling on the State's motion to reopen is not necessary to accomplish the purpose of Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 18(2), at least not as the motion for acquittal was presented here. Subdivision 18(2) prohibits "reserving ruling on a motion to acquit" made at the close of the prosecution's case..."[g]iven the presumption of innocence and the state's burden to prove the offense, a defendant has no obligation to present any evidence and should not be put at risk of providing evidence that fills gaps in the state's case."

"In other words, we prohibit a district court from reserving its ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's case to protect the defense from having to come forward with evidence that would "fill[] gaps" in the State's case. In this case, the district court's decision to rule on the State's motion to reopen before ruling on the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal did not have that effect."

"In sum, Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 18(2), requires a court to rule on the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal when it is made at the close of the prosecution's case. But neither the plain language of the rule nor our case law requires the district court to rule on the motion for acquittal before considering a motion to reopen the State's case."

Moral Of The Story:  When the State rests its case and has failed to present evidence on an element of the offense, the defense should immediately rest as well and only then move for a judgment of acquittal.  



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






Monday, March 13, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Briles v. One GMC Motor Vehicle (Decided March 13, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition even if a motor vehicle is subject to a DWI forfeiture, the insurance proceeds arising from the DWI crash are not!

In Briles the Savage police arrested Russell Briles's drunk son after he crashed and totaled Briles's GMC Terrain sport utility vehicle. The police department seized the vehicle and notified Briles of its intent to forfeit it under the impaired-driver forfeiture statute, Minnesota Statutes section 169A.63. Briles had no intent to recover the totaled, seized wreck, planning instead to recover on his automobile insurance policy. But unbeknownst to Briles, the police department's attorney told his insurer to hold any insurance proceeds and implied that the department had the right to them. Briles discovered the city's representation to his insurer only after the statutory 60-day deadline for his right to file a civil complaint to challenge the forfeiture.

Briles filed a demand for judicial determination anyway, arguing that the GMC had been improperly seized and that insurance proceeds are not forfeitable under the statute. The district court rejected his filing as untimely based on its conclusion that the police department had the right to any insurance proceeds.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court, stating:

"We believe this case can be resolved on the statute's plain language. Section 169A.63 nowhere specifies that money, proceeds, or anything other than the right, title, and interest in the vehicle itself is forfeitable: "All right, title, and interest in a vehicle subject to forfeiture under this section vests in the appropriate agency upon commission of the conduct resulting in the designated offense or designated license revocation giving rise to the forfeiture." Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 3."

"Neither party argues that section 169A.63 is ambiguous. Rather, they dispute whether the forfeiting agency's "right, title, and interest" in a forfeited vehicle extends to the right to related insurance proceeds, which in some sense represent the wrecked vehicle. The legislature has written a broader statute, which was not invoked and does not apply here, to expressly include the targeted property and property "that represents] proceeds of a designated offense": "All personal property is subject to forfeiture if it was used or intended for use to commit or facilitate the commission of a designated offense. All money and other property, real and personal, that represent proceeds of a designated offense, and all contraband property, are subject to forfeiture, except as provided in this section." Minn. Stat. § 609.5312, subd. 1(a) (2016). And the legislature expressly urges that we treat this criminal forfeiture statute, section 609.5312, liberally rather than strictly. See Minn. Stat. § 609.531, subd. la (2016) (stating that sections 609.531 to 609.5318 must be liberally construed). This demonstrates that the legislature knows how to expressly include the kind of liberal and broadening language that the city asks us to incorporate inferentially into section 169A.63. Because we presume that the legislature is aware of the caselaw consistently treating the impaired-driver forfeiture statute strictly against an agency's power to take a vehicle by forfeiture, in contrast to the liberal treatment of criminal forfeiture statutes, we can infer that its choice not to add any broadening language in section 169A.63 is intentional. Nothing in the language of section 169A.63 moves us to believe that any property other than the right, title, and interest in the offender's vehicle itself is forfeitable property under that section."

The Minnesota Court of Appeals therefore correctly held, "...as to the forfeiture of any insurance proceeds resulting from an insurance policy covering Briles's vehicle, the district court incorrectly concluded that the "right, title, and interest" to a forfeited vehicle includes the right to the owner's contractual interest in the insurance proceeds.

Moral of the Story:  You can lose your car but you can still get your money!



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