The Minnesota DWI case of the week is the unpublished decision of State v. Grinsteinner, (Minnesota Court of Appeals decided November 23, 2010) which stands for the proposition that it is possible to get probation for a felony DWI if you really, really work for it.
On October 21, 2009, Mr. Grinsteinner entered a straight plea to the district court on a felony DWI and he hit the jackpot!
A "straight plea to the court" is done when the prosecutor wants more jail time than the client is willing to serve. So rather than agree to the prosecutor's recommendation, a "straight plea to the court" is entered in the hope that the district court judge will be more merciful than the county attorney.
In this case, Mr. Grinsteinner made a straight plea on his Third Felony DWI. While it is unclear from the opinion, that fact that he pled to his 3rd felony indicates that Mr. Grinsteinner has at least six DWI's in his checkered career. The presumptive sentencing guideline called for Mr. Grinsteinner to served 66 months in prison. The district court sentenced Mr. Grinsteinner to probation instead and the County Attorney appealed, arguing that the district court did not have a basis to depart from the 66-month guideline sentence.
Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's probationary sentence and this case is significant as it demonstrates what a defendant can do to avoid a lengthy prison sentence in a felony DWI. The Minnesota Court of Appeals pointed out that Mr. Grinsteinner had: (First and foremost),undergone an extensive treatment program; submitted a letter from his sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous detailing his attendance; submitted a letter from his employer as to his sobriety; submitted a letter from the Inmate worker crew supervisor at the Dakota County Jail; submitted letters from friends and family members detailing their support of the defendant's efforts to maintain sobriety. Mr. Grinsteinner also expressed remorse for his latest offense and had been sober for three years prior to his arrest.
The Minnesota Appellate Court noted that, "The district court has broad discretion to depart from the presumptive sentence provided by the sentencing guidelines." The Appellate Court also stated, "The district court should consider a number of factors when determining whether a defendant is amenable to probation, including the individual's age, prior record, remorse, cooperation, attitude while in court, and the support of friends and family. Here the record reflects that the respondent expressed remorse for his actions, that he had participated in and completed treatment programs while he was in jail for this offense, and that he has a strong support network of friends and family. Furthermore, respondent was sober for three years before he committed this offense, and the record reflects that respondent has the motivation to remain active in recovery and abstain from alcohol use."
The Court of Appeals, therefore, held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it gave Mr. Grinsteinner a probationary sentence.
Moral of the Story: It's Never Too Late To Turn Over A New Leaf!
F.T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Attorney, Minnesota DUI Lawyer, Minneapolis DWI Attorney, Minneapolis DUI Lawyer