The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Mahoney and McCarthy (Decided July 17, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the presumption of admissibility of a Data Master test result does not prevent the defense from challenging the accuracy or reliability of the test.
In Mahoney and McCarthy, the appeals were consolidated and in their respective cases, each appellant provided two breath samples after being suspected of driving while impaired in 2015. The results were obtained from the DataMaster DMT-G, a breath-testing instrument approved by the commissioner of public safety.,Mahoney's breath samples registered at 0.129 and 0.125, with a final value of 0.12 alcohol concentration. He was charged with second-degree driving while impaired. McCarthy's breath samples registered at 0.106 and 0.100, with a final value of 0.10 alcohol concentration. He was charged with fourth-degree driving while impaired, driving with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more.
Appellants consolidated their cases and moved to suppress the individual test results, arguing that the results were not scientifically valid or reliable. The district court held a two-day pretrial hearing on the admissibility of the test results.
The district court found that the individual breath test results were not foundationally reliable under Rule of Evidence 702. But the district court did not suppress the test results, concluding that Minnesota Statutes section 634.16 "moves all issues of reliability from pretrial litigation to the fact-finder at trial," thus creating "blanket admissibility."
After the district court denied appellants' motions to suppress, the parties agreed to stipulate to the state's evidence (including the individual test results) and submit the matter to the district court for a trial under Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 26.01, subdivision 4.
After being found guilty by the district court, the appellants argued to the Appellate Court that the district court erred by determining, as a matter of law, that Minnesota Statutes section 634.16 requires the results of an approved breath test be admitted into evidence.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals in its ruling affirmed the district court stating:
"According to Minnesota Statutes section 634.16, the results of an approved breath test are admissible in evidence without foundational expert testimony. The statute provides as follows:
In any civil or criminal hearing or trial, the results of a breath test, when performed by a person who has been fully trained in the use of an infrared or other approved breath-testing instrument ... are admissible in evidence without antecedent expert testimony that an infrared or other approved breath-testing instrument provides a trustworthy and reliable measure of the alcohol in the breath."
"We do not interpret this language in a vacuum. Rather, as appellants acknowledge, we are guided by our interpretation of an identical statute, which applies to the admission of blood-analysis test results. State v. Pearson. 633 N.W.2d 81, 85 (Minn. App. 2001)."
In Pearson the court held that the legislature may enact statutes that shift the burden of proof by creating rebuttable presumptions. "Accordingly, while the statute in Pearson provided that the evidence 'shall be admissible,' Minn. Stat. § 634.15, this court concluded that the statute 'merely establishes a presumption of reliability that the driver may choose to rebut with live testimony.' Id. at 86 (emphasis added). As the court noted: 'A defendant in a criminal case may challenge the accuracy or reliability of the test by subpoenaing the laboratory assistant or BCA analyst to testify.. . allowing the court the opportunity to determine if the admission of the evidence was unfairly prejudicial.'"
"Here, the district court appropriately interpreted the statute consistently with Pearson. The court found that the commissioner established a prima facie case that the DataMaster DMT-G tests are reliable, a finding unchallenged by appellants. The burden then shifts to petitioners in a license-revocation proceeding to dispute the test's validity and trustworthiness."
"Despite this backdrop, appellants argue that the district court's decision to admit the DataMaster DMT-G test results—after the pretrial determination that the test measurements lacked foundation—makes the test results unassailable and interferes with the judicial function. We disagree. Once a prima facie case of reliability is established, that case may be disputed by producing specific evidence that the test results were invalid. But Pearson does not require that this opportunity to dispute the test results occurs in a pretrial setting, as appellants appear to suggest. Rather, as the district court ruled, the statute 'moves all issues of reliability from pretrial litigation to the fact-finder at trial.'"
"Appellants chose not to challenge the results of the DataMaster DMT-G at trial. Instead, they stipulated to the state's evidence and proceeded to a court trial where they were ultimately found guilty. Because the district court did not err in its interpretation of section 634.16 or in its corresponding decision to admit the individual breath test results at trial, we affirm."
Moral Of The Story: One should rarely, if ever, waive the right to a jury trial!
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.