Monday, August 6, 2018

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Grey v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided August 6, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition that a constitutional challenge to the application of the Minnesota Implied Consent Statute can be raised even though the statute limits the types of challenges that can be raised in the revocation hearing.  

In Grey, the Appellant was an out-of-towner from Iowa, who received a notice and order of revocation following a failed breath test at the sheriffs office. But in the midst of being transported to detox, the notice was left behind. A few days later, the notice and order of revocation was mailed to him. Gray requested an implied-consent hearing at which he contended that his license revocation should be rescinded because his due-process right was violated in light of not receiving the revocation notice and because of an ambiguity in the notice stemming from his driver's license being issued by Iowa, not Minnesota. The district court disagreed, determining that Gray properly received the notice, and due to his own conduct, left the document behind.  The district court also found that the Appellant could not raise a procedural due process challenge as it is not a challenge listed as permissible for hearing in a license revocation case.

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court on other grounds but it significantly found that:

"Individuals are entitled to seek administrative or judicial review after receiving a notice and order of revocation. Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subds. 1-2 (2016). For a judicial-review hearing, also known as an implied-consent hearing, the statute explicitly limits the issues that can be addressed. Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3 (2016) (stating that the "scope of the hearing is limited to the issues" listed). Arguments concerning procedural due process are not among the listed issues."

"Whether an argument not listed in Minnesota Statutes section 169A.53, subdivision 3(b), can be raised at an implied-consent hearing was addressed in Axelberg, where the Minnesota Supreme Court was faced with a petitioner who attempted to raise a necessity defense at an implied-consent hearing. 848 N.W.2d at 207-08. Through a statutory-interpretation analysis, the supreme court determined that because the necessity defense was not one of the delineated issues in the statute, the individual could not raise the defense.6 Id. at 208, 212. It reasoned that the language in the statute, "[t]he scope of the hearing is limited to the issues" listed, meant exactly that—the legislature limited the issues that can be raised. Id. at 208-09."

"Before us is a similar situation as that faced by the Axelberg court, but with a distinct difference. Here, as in Axelberg, Gray attempted to raise an issue outside the scope of Minnesota Statutes section 169A.53, subdivision 3(b), at the implied-consent hearing. But Gray's argument concerned his constitutional right to procedural due process, unlike the issue from Axelberg, which considered the common-law defense of necessity. 848 N.W.2d at 206 (noting that the defense of necessity is a common-law defense). We discern that this distinction—between a common-law affirmative defense and the constitutional right to due process—is significant, and conclude that Gray can raise a due-process argument at his implied-consent hearing."

"It is the critical nature of the constitutional right to due process, and its guarantee of fundamental fairness, that drives our determination. The importance of due process in judicial proceedings cannot be overstated, as it "is the primary and indispensable foundation of individual freedom." Application ofGault, 387 U.S. 1, 20, 87 S. Ct. 1428, 1439-40 (1967) (describing due process as "the basic and essential term in the social compact which defines the rights of the individual and delimits the powers which the state may exercise"). The hallmark of the procedural protections afforded by the due process clause is "fundamental fairness." Ford v. Wainwright, All U.S. 399, 424, 106 S. Ct. 2595, 2609 (1986). And while difficult to define exactly what procedural due process requires, courts have explained that it is this "fundamental fairness" that must be ascertained for a given situation. Lassiter v. Dep 't ofSoc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 24-25, 101 S. Ct. 2153, 2158 (1981). And proper notice is engrained in the concept of due process. Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225, 228, 78 S. Ct. 240, 243 (1957). Simply put, as Justice Marshall explained, "it is procedural due process that is our fundamental guarantee of fairness, our protection against arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable government action." Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 589, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 2715 (1972) (Marshall, J., dissenting). Because of the importance of due process, it would be improper to determine that an individual cannot raise procedural due-process concerns at an implied-consent hearing."

"Furthermore, while the Minnesota Legislature may limit what arguments can be raised at an implied-consent hearing, it cannot legislate away constitutional rights."

Moral Of The Story:  The constitution trumps legislation every time!

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

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