Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case of the Week is State v. Yaeger (Decided August 20, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the "good faith exception" to the exclusionary rule only applies where the police are relying on established court precedent.

In Yaeger, the Defendant was stopped as one of the headlights on his vehicle was out.  The trooper noticed Yaeger's pupils were dilated "way above average" and asked Yaeger to submit to standardized field-sobriety tests, which he failed.  Yaeger admitted that he had taken Cymbalta, an antidepressant, about two hours before the traffic stop.  As the troopers were placing Yaeger under arrest, they told Yaeger that he was "not gonna get charged tonight."

Trooper Elzen read Yaeger the implied-consent advisory. Yaeger decided to consult with an attorney, but before speaking with an attorney asked the troopers, "So is it ultimately, is this, you guys are trying to get it into like a DWI?" Trooper Elzen replied that Yaeger had been arrested for "DWI, a controlled substance." Yaeger said that "the medication that I'm on[,] I was told I can drive on those medications." Trooper Bormann replied, "Yeah there's ... a prescription defense to that, however we don't know tonight how much you took, if you took other things." Yaeger then consulted an attorney and agreed to take a urine test. The urine test came back positive for alpha-hydroxyalprazolam, also known as Xanax, as well as Zolpidem.

On November 18, 2015, Yaeger was charged with one count of DWI—operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. Yaeger moved to suppress "any evidence acquired as a result of the unlawful search . . . ." The district court held a hearing on Yaeger's motion to dismiss, at which he argued that he did not consent to the search, the good-faith exception to the warrant requirement did not apply, and that his due-process rights had been violated as a result of an incorrect implied-consent advisory.

Ruling from the bench, the district court "d[id] not find that consent was voluntary." The district court, "[considering the totality of the circumstances[,]" noted first that the implied-consent advisory read to Yaeger was not accurate. The district court stated that the incorrect advisory "is one thing that [it] can consider." In addition, the district court considered "other things that occurred," including that troopers told Yaeger he was not going to be charged that night, they were "just getting the test to see what comes back on the test, and . . . if there's things in there that are impairing, then you could get charged with a DWI." The district court stated that it was "inclined to look at that statement as one that's not supporting consent, that [Yaeger] [wa]s being told, more or less, that his acquiescence to the test [wa]s one thing that they'll consider in releasing him tonight and ultimately whether or not he's going to be charged." The district court then considered the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The district court found that the troopers "acted appropriately" and that "[t]here isn't anything in the record that suggests that there was police misconduct." The district court also found that the implied-consent advisory was correct at the time it was read to Yaeger. Accordingly, the district court concluded that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied and that the urine-test results were admissible.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court, correctly finding that:

"Here, the district court found that Yaeger did not voluntarily consent to the urine test. The district court's finding was not based solely on the inaccurate statement of law contained in the implied-consent advisory. The district court also considered the statements made by the troopers suggesting that"[Yaeger's] acquiescence to the test is one thing that they'll consider in releasing him tonight and ultimately whether or not he's going to be charged." The troopers also downplayed the consequences of taking the urine test. Additionally, Trooper Bormann mistakenly informed Yaeger that there was a "prescription defense" to DWI.1 The state does not argue that the district court erred by finding that Yaeger's consent was invalid. Accordingly, the district court's finding is presumed to be correct."

"Yaeger challenges the district court's application of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The supreme court stated in Lindquist that "[t]he exclusionary rule does not apply . . . when law enforcement acts in good-faith, objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent."   869 N.W.2d at 864.   The supreme court reiterated that "deterrence of police misconduct" is the "central purpose of the exclusionary rule" and concluded that "applying the exclusionary rule to evidence obtained during a search conducted in reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent would have no deterrent value on police misconduct." Id. at 871."

"The district court erred by applying the good-faith exception. The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule would apply only if the incorrect advisory was the sole factor that rendered Yaeger's consent involuntary...Here, in addition to the incorrect advisory, the troopers told Yaeger that he would be released without being charged after he took the urine test, downplayed the consequences of the test, and misled him to believe that there was a prescription defense to DWI. The state cites no binding appellate precedent that authorizes such conduct.  Accordingly, we conclude that the district court erred by reversing its direction and ultimately admitting the urine-test results under the good-faith exception."

Moral Of The Story:  In order for the police to act "in good faith" they must follow ALL of the rules!

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

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