Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Peterson (Decided May 6, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which, once again, stands for the proposition that if you have been drinking and driving and make it home do not open your door!

In Peterson, Minnesota State Trooper Jon Wenzel followed the Defendant to his home after observing an equipment violation and some speeding.  

Peterson parked his truck in his home driveway, immediately exited, and walked quickly toward his front door. Wenzel pulled into the driveway and parked. Wenzel saw Peterson look directly at him and keep walking. Wenzel stepped out of his car, identified himself as a state trooper, and loudly told Peterson to stop because “I need to talk to you.” Wenzel testified that Peterson’s wife, M.P., also saw him as Peterson climbed the steps to his porch. The couple went inside and locked the door.

Wenzel had not activated his emergency lights, in part because he intended to “advise [Peterson] of the equipment violation.” Based on Peterson’s behavior in the driveway, Wenzel testified that he believed that “there might be something other than speeding] or an equipment violation that would cause [Peterson] to try to evade” police.

Wenzel opened the storm door, knocked on the front door, “announced himself,” and said he needed to speak to Peterson.  Peterson's wife eventually answered the door and said that she would see if her husband would come to the door.

Wenzel saw Peterson open a beer can as he walked toward and opened the front door. While they stood in the doorway, Wenzel observed that Peterson had an “unsteady gait,” “sort of swayfed],” had “very slurred” speech, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Wenzel testified he smelled an “overwhelming odor of alcohol” coming from Peterson.

Wenzel asked Peterson to come outside and speak with him, and told Peterson that he would be arrested for obstruction of legal process if he did not cooperate. Peterson refused and Wenzel grabbed Peterson’s arm. Peterson resisted and began backing away from the doorway and toward the living room. Wenzel testified that his foot may have been on the threshold as he grabbed Peterson. Peterson, with M.P. ’s assistance, forcefully pulled away from Wenzel, who called for an on-scene deputy to back him up. Together, Wenzel and the other deputy moved Peterson outside the home

After doing some field tests and obtaining a .198 reading on a preliminary breath test, Mr. Peterson was arrested for DWI.  The Defendant was taken to the police station where he subsequently refused to submit to testing.  

Mr. Peterson was charged with felony DWI and he challenged the validity of his arrest asserting the trooper was not in "hot pursuit"when Peterson entered his home.  The State in its response claimed that the trooper was in hot pursuit but on appeal, the Court of Appeals declined to address the issue finding instead that the arrest lawfully began in the doorway of the Peterson home.

The Court of Appeals began its analysis by noting that "Absent exigent circumstances, police officers may not enter an individual’s home to make a warrantless arrest. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 1382 (1980). The doorway of one’s home, however, has been held to be a public place for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment."..."Once a police officer has begun to arrest a person in a public place, that person may not retreat into their home to thwart an arrest."
***
"Wenzel had probable cause to arrest Peterson for DWI. As Peterson stood in his doorway, Wenzel observed multiple indicia of intoxication within a very short time after Peterson stopped driving. When these observations are considered together with Peterson’s evasive behavior and his refusal to cooperate with Wenzel, we conclude that Wenzel had probable cause to arrest Peterson for DWI."
***
"Because the record supports the district court’s factual findings that Wenzel began to arrest Peterson while he was in the doorway of Peterson’s home, we conclude that these findings are not clearly erroneous. Because Wenzel began to arrest Peterson in the doorway, Peterson could no longer flee back into his house to thwart the arrest."

Moral Of The Story:  A man's home is his castle so don't open the door for the police!



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 Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Platt v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided April 29, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you act like a jerk, you will get jerked around.

In Platt, the Petitioner was arrested for DWI and the arresting officer obtained a search warrant for a sample of Mr. Platt's blood or urine. Platt refused to submit to blood testing and said that he would submit to urine testing, but demanded time and water in order to provide the sample. Over the next hour, the officer would check in to see if Platt was prepared to give the sample, but Platt repeatedly indicated that he needed more time. In all of his interactions with the officer, Platt was insulting and profane, frequently shouting over the officer. The officer determined that Platt’s conduct amounted to test refusal, and so informed the commissioner of public safety, leading the commissioner to revoke Platt’s license.

Platt filed a challenge to the license revocation in district court arguing that : (1) his license cannot be revoked as the officer did not read him the statutorily mandated advisory and (2) that his right to due process was violated as he was not told that his refusal to submit to testing was a crime.

The district court upheld the license revocation and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed noting that they need not decide the merits of Mr. Platt's arguments as there are a long line of cases which hold that a driver's misbehavior constitutes a waiver of rights under the implied consent law. Or, as stated by the Court:

"Drivers who are arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated have a duty to avoid frustrating the implied-consent testing process. State v. Collins, 655 N.W.2d 652, 658 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Mar. 26, 2003). When a driver’s conduct prevents officers from completing the implied-consent procedure, the driver is deemed to have waived his or her rights under that process. See State v. Busch, 614 N.W.2d 256, 259 (Minn. App. 2000) (holding that a driver who frustrated the implied consent process by his silence had waived his right to an attorney). Thus, where a driver prevented an officer from reading the implied-consent advisory by “screaming, swearing, making accusations of rape, and insisting that she would not listen,” the driver could be convicted for test refusal even though the implied-consent advisory was not read and she was never provided with an opportunity to contact an attorney. Collins, 655 N.W.2d at 658. Although Collins and Busch address the limited right to counsel, their rationale applies here. See id.; Busch, 614 N.W.2d at 259-60; see also Sigfrinius v. Comm ’r of Pub. Safety, 378 N.W.2d 124, 126 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that a driver’s conduct frustrates administration of the test where his conduct is “calculated to avoid any ‘suspension’ of his license”). Accepting Platt’s argument that implied consent cases also apply to Minn. Stat. § 171.177, a driver receiving a warrant advisory may not frustrate the advisory and then contest the revocation because the advisory was not given."

Moral Of The Story:  If you have been arrested, don't make matter worse for yourself by being a jerk.

If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.




Monday, April 22, 2019

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. Rusthoven which stands for the proposition that if you act like you have something to hide, you are going to get searched by the police.

In Rusthoven, the Defendant was stopped for speeding in Swift County, Minnesota. When Deputy Hoffman approached the Defendant's truck, he noticed Mr. Rusthoven was, "very fidgety and very agitated".  When Deputy Hoffman asked Rusthoven if he was under the influence of a controlled substance, Rusthoven became “even more agitated.”

The deputy returned to his squad car to look up Rusthoven’s driver’s license. The search revealed that Rusthoven’s license was restricted, requiring that, if any drugs were found in his system, his license would be invalidated. The deputy returned to speak with Rusthoven and observed that, "his arms were constantly moving, just back and forth, up and down. He would take his hat over [sic] very quickly and put it on very quickly and he was always, you know, it appeared that he was always digging around inside the vehicle or moving his arms inside the vehicle."

Deputy Hoffman asked Rusthoven to exit the vehicle, but Rusthoven refused. This made the deputy “fairly nervous.” The deputy waited to take further action until a second deputy arrived.

When a second deputy arrived, Deputy Hoffman asked Rusthoven to exit his vehicle again. After several requests from both deputies, Rusthoven did so. Deputy Hoffman performed a pat-down search for weapons and thought that he felt a methamphetamine pipe in Rusthoven’s front pocket. Deputy Hoffman told Rusthoven that he was under arrest.

A search warrant was obtained to get a sample of Rusthoven's blood. The blood tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Mr. Rusthoven was charged with felony DWI and he moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing the deputy did not have a reason suspicion to expand the stop and conduct a pat-down for weapons.  The district court denied Rusthoven’s motions, finding that each expansion of the stop was justified.  

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the district court, stating:

"To be constitutional, “each incremental intrusion during a traffic stop [must] be tied to and justified by one of the following: (1) the original legitimate purpose of the stop, (2) independent probable cause, or (3) reasonableness, as defined in Terry.” State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 365 (Minn. 2004). The supreme court has summarized Terry as follows: “[E]ven in the absence of probable cause, the police may stop and frisk a person when (1) they have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a suspect might be engaged in criminal activity and (2) the officer reasonably believes the suspect might be armed and dangerous.” State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 250 (Minn. 2007) (quotations omitted); accord Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1884 (1968)."

***
"Based on the totality of the circumstances, Deputy Hoffman reasonably believed that Rusthoven was armed and dangerous. The deputy observed indicia of drug use and found that Rusthoven’s license was restricted from prior drug use. In addition, Rusthoven was unwilling to cooperate with the deputies’ requests to exit the vehicle. Based on those facts, combined with Rusthoven’s “erratic and agitated” movements, including “digging around inside the vehicle,” “moving his arms inside the vehicle,” and “fidgeting with everything,” the deputy reasonably believed that Rusthoven was armed and dangerous. At that point, given the totality of the circumstances, Deputy Hoffman possessed reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot and that Rusthoven was armed and dangerous, justifying a pat-down frisk for weapons."

Moral Of The Story:  If you get fidgety, the cops will get frisky!


If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.

Monday, April 15, 2019

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 State v. Shaw (Decided April 15, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that a fish house, within the curtilage of a home, is entitled to Fourth Amendment protection.

In Shaw, the police received a report that the Defendant hit a utility pole with his vehicle and then left the scene.  The police were given the license plate number of the vehicle and they used this information to go to the Defendant's residence.  When the police arrived at the home, they came in contact with the Defendant's mother who told them that Defendant was not in the residence.  She refused to allow the police to search the home.  Defendant's mother did consent to a search of the garage.

The police searched the garage but did not find Shaw. The deputies observed Shaw’s vehicle, the one involved in the accident, parked in the grass behind the home. They noted that the engine was warm to the touch, indicating that it had recently been driven, and a deputy testified that he also observed patches of dead grass indicating that a vehicle had been parked in the backyard at other times. Behind the home, the deputies also found an old, dilapidated fish house with grass growing around it. The grass in front of the fish house was matted down, indicating that someone had recently entered it. A deputy approached the fish house and called out for Shaw, who did not respond. The deputy opened the door to the fish house and discovered Shaw inside. Shaw subsequently failed field sobriety tests and was arrested on suspicion of DWI.

The Defendant moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing that the fish house was a constitutionally protected area which the police could not enter without a warrant.  The district court denied the motion but on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court stating:

"In State v. Larsen, the supreme court considered whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a fish house. 650 N.W.2d 144, 149 (Minn. 2002)....The supreme court considered “the nature of the premises [in Larsen]—a fish house, erected and equipped to protect its occupants from the elements and often providing eating, sleeping, and other facilities—as providing privacy for activities recognized and permitted by society.” Id. at 149 (quotation omitted). The supreme court noted that “[w]hile clearly not a substitute for one’s private dwelling, during the period of occupancy important activities of a personal nature take place” within a fish house. Id. The supreme court concluded that Larsen had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his fish house."  

But in this case the Court of Appeals held that Larsen does not apply as, "The record here does not suggest that Shaw was living in the fish house. Moreover, a dilapidated, overgrown fish house located in the backyard of a residence does not provide “eating, sleeping, and other facilities” as a fish house located on a lake would. Id. This case is distinguishable from Larsen, and therefore Shaw did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the fish house."

The Court of Appeals further ruled, however, that:

"The “land immediately surrounding and associated with the home,” the curtilage, is “part of the home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180, 104 S. Ct. 1735, 1742 (1984). To determine whether an area is located within the curtilage of the property, appellate courts look to “whether the area in question is so intimately tied to the home itself that it should be placed under the home’s ‘umbrella’ of Fourth Amendment protection."

"The United States Supreme Court has identified four relevant factors to use when determining whether a disputed area falls within the curtilage:

[1] the proximity of the area claimed to be curtilage to the home, 
[2] whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home, 
[3] the nature of the uses to which the area is put, and 
[4] the steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by. Dunn, 480 U.S. at 301, 107 S. Ct. at 1139.

"The fish house was located in the backyard of a residential, single-family home. “The backyard and driveway of a home are often considered to be within the curtilage of a home.” State v. Chute, 908 N.W.2d 578, 584 (Minn. 2018). Like the defendant in Chute, Shaw “does not live on a large piece of rural property” but rather “lives in a single-family home.” See id. Thus, the first Dunn factor—proximity to the home—weighs in Shaw’s favor."

"The record is less clear regarding the remaining Dunn factors. There was no testimony as to whether the property was enclosed by a fence, shielded by trees, or otherwise protected from observation. “The curtilage of a home, however, need not be completely shielded from public view.” Id. at 585. Thus, the second and fourth factors are neutral. As to the third Dunn factor, one deputy testified that it appeared from patches of dead grass that a vehicle had been parked in the backyard before, and the deputies discovered Shaw’s vehicle parked in the backyard that day. This indicates that Shaw may have used the backyard as a place to park his vehicle, and this kind of use is “closely related to the home and associated with the privacies of life.” See id. (concluding that portion of defendant’s backyard where he had parked a camper was curtilage). Therefore, this factor weighs in Shaw’s favor."

"In sum, consideration of the Dunn factors demonstrate that the backyard in which the fish house was located was within the curtilage of Shaw’s home, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in it, and the deputies therefore were required to obtain a warrant to search the fish house..."

Moral Of The Story:  Even if something fishy is going on, the police still need a warrant to enter the house! 

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 Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Monday, April 1, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Kelly (Decided April 1, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that a driver, in making a turn, does not have to turn into the lane closest to the centerline.

In Kelly, an Eden Prairie police officer observed the Defendant's truck stopped at a red light at the intersection of Singletree Lane and Prairie Center Drive.  Singletree Lane runs from east to west and has two eastbound lanes and two westbound lanes, divided by a grass median. Similarly, Prairie Center Drive runs from north to south and has two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes, also divided by a grass median.  Kelley’s truck was stopped in the left-most lane of the westbound portion of Singletree Lane. That lane is the only lane from which a left-hand turn onto Prairie Center Drive can be legally made, and there are no markers extending the lanes through the intersection onto Prairie Center Drive.

Kelley’s turn signal was activated, indicating his intent to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Prairie Center Drive. Officer Streiff testified that when the light turned green, he watched Kelley’s truck make “a wide turn and actually turn into the far right lane, not the near lane when making the left hand turn.” Upon exiting the intersection, Kelley completed his turn.  Officer Streiff testified that he believed the wide left turn was a traffic violation, so he initiated a traffic stop.  

Mr. Kelly was drunk and was subsequently arrested for 2nd Degree DWI.  He moved to suppress the evidence and dismiss the charges arguing arguing that the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable basis for the stop because his left turn was legal. 

The District Court denied the Defendant's Motion but on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, stating:

"Kelley does not dispute that he did not turn into the inner portion of the lane when completing the left turn. Instead, he argues that the district court and the officer erred in relying on Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(b) to conclude that he violated a traffic law. He asserts that the district court and the officer misinterpreted the statute because “Minnesota law does not dictate which lane of the roadway being entered that a left turn must be completed in."

***
"The relevant portion of the left-turn statute provides that the driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:
(b) Approach for a left turn on other than one-way roadways shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the centerline thereof, and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the centerline of the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection. Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(b).

"The first sentence of subdivision 1(b) provides guidance as to how one should approach the intersection to make a left turn and requires that approach for a left turn, on other than one-way roadways, be made in the portion of the roadway nearest the centerline. Id. Here, there is no dispute that Kelley complied with this requirement."

***
"The plain language of the statute required Kelley, after entering the intersection, to leave the intersection to the right of the centerline of Prairie Center Drive. The statute does not require that a left turn be completed in the inner-most, closest, or nearest lane “to the right of the centerline of the roadway being entered.” Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(b). Both of the southbound lanes on Prairie Center Drive are to the right of the centerline, and Kelley’s turn into the outer lane, which was on the right side of the median, complied with this portion of the statute."

"The state argues that the second sentence of the subdivision required Kelley to turn into the inner-most lane of the roadway being entered because there was nothing obstructing Kelley’s ability to complete the turn in the inner-most lane. The state relies on the language in the second sentence of subdivision 1(b), which provides that “[w]henever practicable the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection.” Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(b)."

"Given these plain-language meanings and the statutory definition of intersection, the “whenever practicable” provision in the statute only refers to a driver’s conduct when going through the intersection, not when completing the turn. Consequently, Kelley was not required to turn into the inner-most lane because it was “practicable” for him to do so. Because the statute does not require which lane of the roadway being entered a left turn must be completed in, the district court erred by concluding that Kelley was required to turn into the inner-most lane of Prairie Center Drive."

Moral Of The Story:  People may often make a wrong turn in life but the lane chosen does not really matter.

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 Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.



Monday, March 25, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Junker v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided March 25, 2019, Minnesota Court Of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition that a person who burps during the observation period is not entitled to have the data master test result thrown out unless they can prove the test results were affected by the burp.

In Junker, the Petitioner was arrested for a DWI and tested at a .09 % BAC on the data master machine.  Petitioner challenged his license revocation arguing that he burped during the observation period and, therefore, the test result was unreliable.  The district court sustained the revocation of the license and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, stating:

"...the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and officer training require that a driver be observed for at least 15 minutes before a breath test is administered. The purpose of the observation period is to ensure that mouth alcohol does not contaminate a driver’s breath samples. For breath-test results to be admitted into evidence, the commissioner has the burden of establishing that the test is reliable and that the administration of the test conformed to the procedure necessary to ensure its reliability. State v. Dille, 258 N.W.2d 565, 567 (Minn. 1977). To meet this burden, a breathalyzer test must be “conducted by a certified operator,” and the commissioner must establish “that the machine was in proper working order and the chemicals in proper condition.” Bielejeski v. Comm ’r of Pub. Safety, 351 N.W.2d 664, 666 (Minn. App. 1984). After the breath-test results are admitted, the burden shifts to the driver to challenge the credibility of the results."

"...the district court found that Junker burped during the observation period. But even though Junker proved that he burped during the observation period, he failed to demonstrate that the burping actually affected his breath- test results. See Hounsell, 401 N.W.2d at 96 (stating that to meet burden, driver must sufficiently demonstrate that his test results were affected by the burping)."

"...the caselaw is clear: “Even if a driver can prove that he had something in his mouth, he must also demonstrate that the substance actually affected his results.” Id. Additionally, the commissioner offered substantial evidence that DataMaster has built-in safeguards that provide an invalid result if the system detects mouth alcohol. The Trooper Anderson testified that Junker’s test results passed the machine’s internal test, and Junker did not refute this evidence."

Moral Of The Story:  When you burp, it is not enough to say "excuse me".

Monday, March 18, 2019

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. Stark (Decided March 18, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that an officer's observations of DWI impairment are direct and not circumstantial evidence.  

In Stark, a police officer was following a vehicle when he observed it rapidly accelerate and pass another vehicle without signaling. The officer estimated that the vehicle was traveling between 75 and 80 miles per hour on a gravel road.   The officer gave chase and observed numerous traffic violations during his pursuit, including failure to signal turns and a lane change, failure to stop at stop signs, and speeding. The officer turned on his emergency lights in order to initiate a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle did not stop, but instead continued to speed, drive erratically, and take turns at dangerous speeds. The officer testified that he felt that, based on his observations of the vehicle and the manner in which the driver would approach intersections and turns, the driver’s depth perception was off.

After an eight-mile chase, the vehicle stopped at an intersection. The officer announced to the driver that he was under arrest and ordered him to put his hands out of the window. The driver put his hands out of the window, with his middle fingers extended, and repeatedly swore at the officer, stating that he would not listen. This behavior continued for around eight minutes before a police dog was brought to the driver’s side of the vehicle, and, although the driver refused to open his door, eventually several officers were able to remove the driver and place him under arrest for fleeing a police officer. The driver was then identified by his ID as appellant. Despite being handcuffed, Defendant remained defiant to commands. At this time, the officer suspected Defendant was impaired due to the officer’s observation of his erratic driving.

At the jail, the officer spoke to Defendant and observed that his eyes were bloodshot and watery and that his pupils were dilated. Based on the officer’s drug-recognition-expert training, he knew these to be indications of impairment either by alcohol or controlled substances. Based on the officer’s training, the next step in his investigation of possible impairment was to subject appellant to standardized field sobriety assessments. When the officer attempted to conduct the first test, which involved shining a light in appellant’s eyes and having him follow movement, Defendant informed the officer that he would not comply with any testing. The officer read Defendant the implied-consent advisory and requested a breath test. Defendant refused. The officer asked again if Defendant would submit to a breath test, but he again refused.

Defendant was charged with first-degree DWI—test refusal, three counts of DWI— impaired driving, fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, and driving after cancellation.  The District Court dismissed the three DWI counts but not the fleeing or test refusal count.  The Defendant was convicted after a jury trial and argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient as to the test refusal charge.

The Defendant urged the Court of Appeals to find the state’s evidence of probable cause of impairment, which consisted of squad and booking-room video evidence and testimony from the arresting officer regarding his direct observations, was circumstantial.  Defendant, therefore, argued the appellate court should apply the two-step analysis for evaluating the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence.

The Court of Appeals rejected the Defendant's argument noting that:
 "...State v. Andersen, 784 N.W.2d 320, 329 (Minn. 2010) (“[W]hen reviewing the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence, our first task is to identify the circumstances proved. . . . Our second step is to examine independently the reasonableness of all inferences that might be drawn from the circumstances proved; this includes inferences consistent with a hypothesis other than guilt.” 

"Circumstantial evidence is “evidence from which the factfinder can infer whether the facts in dispute existed or did not exist.” State v. Harris, 895 N.W.2d 592, 599 (Minn. 2017) (quotation omitted). Direct evidence is “evidence that is based on personal knowledge or observation and that, if true, proves a fact without inference or presumption.” Id. (quotation omitted). Circumstantial evidence always requires an inferential step that is not required with direct evidence. Id."

"Probable cause of appellant’s impairment was proved with direct, and not circumstantial, evidence. The officer’s direct observations of appellant were sufficient to support probable cause of impairment by alcohol, drugs, or both."

Moral Of The Story: You can run but you cannot hide!

If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.



Monday, March 4, 2019

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 State v. Lane (Decided March 4, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you are told by the district court that it rejects the plea deal and affords you the opportunity to withdraw said plea, you can't complain about the subsequent sentence if you continue with the guilty plea.  Well, duh.  Sometimes I don't understand why people bother to appeal.

In Lane, the Defendant was charged with First Degree DWI and First Degree DWI Refusal.  Ms. Lane reached an agreement with the prosecutor wherein she agreed to plead guilty to felony refusal in exchange for bottom-of-the-box sentence.

The pre-plea sentencing worksheet indicated the Defendant had a criminal history score of six.  According the the sentencing guidelines, the Defendant was looking at a maximum penalty of 84 months, with a bottom-of-the-box score of 62 months. The Defendant pled guilty and the district court explained it would reserve acceptance of the plea until sentencing.

A pre-sentence investigation report was completed and it was learned the Defendant's criminal history score was four instead of six.  This gave the Defendant a lower bottom-of-the-box score of 51 months.

The district court rejected the previously deferred plea agreement. It informed the Defendant that, if she chose to maintain her plea of guilty and proceed to sentencing, the district court’s intention was to impose a top-of-the-box prison term of 72 months based on a criminal history score of four. The district court explained that it would allow the Defendant to either withdraw her guilty plea or proceed with sentencing. Defendant conferred with her attorney and then informed the district court that she wanted to maintain her plea of guilty and proceed with sentencing for the felony test-refusal offense. The district court sentenced Defendant to 72 months in prison, with 84-days credit for time served and a five-year conditional release period.

On appeal, Ms. Lane argued the court abused its discretion by rejecting the plea agreement.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting:

"When a plea is entered and the defendant questioned, the trial court judge must reject or accept the plea of guilty on the terms of the plea agreement.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.04, subd. 3(1). The district court may postpone its acceptance or rejection until it has received the results of a presentence investigation (PSI). Id. “If the court rejects the plea agreement, it must advise the parties in open court and then call upon the defendant to either affirm or withdraw the plea.” Id. see also Tyska, 448 N.W.2d at 549 (further explaining Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.04, subd. 3(1)).

"Appellant argues that the district court’s rejection of her plea was arbitrary, and that she is entitled to receive the agreed-upon bottom-of-the-box sentence. But because the district court expressly withheld acceptance or rejection of this plea until sentencing, and provided appellant with the opportunity to withdraw or affirm her guilty plea after it declined to accept the agreement, the district court acted within its discretion."

Moral Of The Story:  There ain't no deal until the court says there's a deal!


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 Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Oman (Decided February 11, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you are going to drive drunk, you had better take your time.

Mr. Oman was observed rapidly accelerating from a stop sign by a Hermantown police officer.  The officer initiated a traffic stop of Mr. Oman's pickup and things went rapidly downhill from there.  While Oman was speaking, the officer noticed a strong smell of alcohol and observed that Oman’s eyes were glossy and bloodshot. Oman admitted to drinking three beers before driving. The officer then requested that Oman perform field sobriety tests, which Oman agreed to do. But Oman failed the field sobriety tests and his preliminary breath test.  Mr. Oman was placed under arrest and at the police station, he tested at a .16% BAC.

The Defendant moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing that the initial stop was illegal. The district court denied Oman’s motion on the ground that the officer was acting upon his professional determination that Oman accelerated too fast in violation of a Proctor city ordinance.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court noting that the Proctor City Ordinance states:

"No person shall turn, accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise operate a motor vehicle on any public or private roadway within the City in a manner which causes unnecessary engine noise or backfire, squealing tires, skidding, sliding, swaying, throwing of sand or gravel, or in a manner simulating a race, impeding traffic, or with an unnecessary exhibition of speed. (Emphasis the court's)

The Court of Appeals then found:

"Multiple facts in the record support the district court’s finding. The officer testified that he observed Oman’s vehicle stop at a stop sign, then “accelerate very fast” down the street. When Oman’s vehicle left the stop sign, the officer heard the loud acceleration of the motor, which he testified seemed excessive. By the time the officer turned the comer to follow, Oman’s vehicle was near the end of the block. The video from the dashboard camera mounted in the patrol car confirms the officer’s testimony. It shows Oman’s vehicle far ahead of the squad car by the time the officer made a turn. And while the patrol car caught up to Oman’s vehicle, the dashboard-camera video recorded that the patrol car had to move at a speed of 41 miles per hour to do so....The dashboard-camera video explicitly shows Oman accelerating away from the stop sign at a fast speed."

"...Oman’s analogy to Bender is misplaced. In Bender, this court determined that the officer did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion for instigating the investigatory stop because the officer did not suspect the driver of being under the influence or committing any other traffic offenses. Bender, 381 N.W.2d at 897. Instead, the officer testified that the basis for the stop was that the driver’s car was making excessive noise. Id. at 898. And the officer never testified that the noise level would have constituted a traffic violation. Id. Unlike Bender, the testimony here shows that the officer reasonably suspected Oman of violating the Proctor city code provision prohibiting unreasonable acceleration."

Moral Of The Story: Haste makes waste!

If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Berzins (Decided January 28, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you are arrested for a DWI, the police have free reign to search your car.  

In Berzins, Glencoe Police Officer Andrew Fiebelkom began following appellant’s SUV and watched it cross over the center line. After seeing the traffic violation, Officer Fiebelkom stopped the SUV and approached it on the driver’s side. Before Officer Fiebelkom could identify himself, the SUV driver asked why he had been stopped. Officer Fiebelkom explained that he stopped the SUV because it had gone over the center line.

While speaking with appellant, Officer Fiebelkom noticed that appellant was “on the nod,” which the officer testified to mean that appellant was falling asleep while talking to him. Officer Fiebelkom also observed that appellant had “droopy eyelids” and scabs on his arms and hands. Based on his experience working as a police officer and on the appearance and location of the scabs, Officer Fiebelkom identified such scabs as indicative of hypodermic-needle use.

Berzins was asked to get out of his vehicle and perform field sobriety tests.  He was subsequently placed under arrest for DWI and based on his interaction with appellant, Officer Fiebelkom believed that evidence of drug use would be found inside the SUV. He decided to search it. Officer Fiebelkom began his search with the driver’s-side and center-console areas. In those areas, he found hypodermic needles, one of which appeared to have methamphetamine inside it. In the back seat on the driver’s side of the car, Officer Fiebelkom found a lunch pail containing needles, spoons, a scale, and a pill grinder containing a crystal-like substance that Officer Fiebelkom believed was methamphetamine. In the area where one of the passengers had been sitting, Officer Fiebelkom found another hypodermic needle and a small plastic bag containing approximately two grams of a crystal-like substance. Both the needle and the bag contained methamphetamine.

Appellant moved to suppress the drug evidence obtained from the search of his SUV. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress. Appellant stipulated to the state’s case to obtain appellate review of the district court’s pretrial mling under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found appellant guilty of felony fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor fourth-degree controlled-substance DWI. Appellant was sentenced to 21 months in prison for the fifth-degree possession offense, and 90 days in jail for the DWI offense.

On appeal, Mr. Berzins argued the search was not justified under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement under Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009).  Alas, the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed noting:

"A search incident to a lawful arrest is a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment. Gant, 556 U.S. at 338, 129 S. Ct. at 1716. Under this exception, and incident to a lawful arrest, police may make a contemporaneous search of a vehicle if a defendant has access to the area or if there is reason to believe that evidence of the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle. Id. at 343, 129 S. Ct. at 1719."
***
"Appellant argues that the search of his SUV was not valid under Gant because it was unreasonable for the officer to believe that evidence of driving while impaired would be in appellant’s SUV. Appellant asserts that “[t]he crime of DWI focuses upon evidence obtained from the driver, not other physical evidence, because it is the driver’s state of intoxication that is prohibited.” He claims that, because he was arrested “solely for the crime of DWI,” the officer already had the necessary evidence of the crime of arrest."

"The district court determined that it was reasonable for Officer Fiebelkom to believe that drug-use evidence might be found in appellant’s SUV based on appellant’s droopy eyelids, nodding off, puncture marks with scabs on his arms and hands, and appellant’s having failed two field-sobriety tests. The district court concluded that the warrantless search of appellant’s SUV was valid under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement."

The Court of Appeals then states:

"Here, after Offficer Fiebelkom arrested appellant for a controlled-substance DWI, the officer formed a reasonable belief that drugs—evidence of the crime of arrest—would be found in appellant’s SUV. Officer Fiebelkom’s observation of multiple signs of dmg use reasonably led the officer to believe, based on his training and experience, that “controlled substances are usually inside the vehicle along with the driver.”

Sorry, but I have to agree with the defense on this one.  Using the logic of the district court and court of appeals, every time a drunk is stopped while driving a motor vehicle, the police now have probable cause to search the vehicle for the offending liquor, beer or wine bottle(s)?. 

While drugs often accompany the addict, the constitution requires more than just a generalized suspicion of criminal activity to justify a search.  The Appellant's arms were not bleeding and there was nothing about the police encounter which gave the officer a reasonable (versus speculative) belief that the automobile contained drugs.

Moral Of The Story:  Seek and ye shall find especially if you have a badge.



If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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. Wolden which stands for the proposition that the police can enter your home without a warrant if they reasonably believe "emergency aid" is required for an occupant.  

In Wolden, the State of Minnesota charged appellant Shane Michael Wolden with criminal vehicular operation: causing great bodily harm while under the influence of alcohol.  On December 10, 2016, several police officers responded to a motor-vehicle accident at 5900 Westbrook Road in Golden Valley. Upon arrival, the officers observed a vehicle with extensive damage. Photographs of the accident scene showed that the windshield of the vehicle was shattered and contained a large hole on the driver’s side. Those photographs also showed debris strewn around the front end of the vehicle, one of the vehicle’s wheels on the ground across the street from the vehicle, a light pole sheared off from its base, the detached lamp from that light pole, and a downed street sign. Blood was visible on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides of the vehicle, including on top of the vehicle’s sunroof. Sergeant Buffie testified that the caller who reported the accident was at the scene and told the officers that the occupants of the vehicle “had left on foot.” The officers determined that Wolden was a registered owner of the vehicle.

Officers were informed that there was a man with a severe head injury in front of a different caller’s residence. Officers responded to that residence and spoke to the man, who was identified as C.T. C.T. had been a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident. C.T. had severe injuries. Sergeant Buffie testified that C.T.’s “eye was bulging out of his head really bad, filled with blood,” that he had “numerous lacerations on his head and was actively bleeding with blood running down his face,” and that he “looked horrific.”

Police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at a residence at 5630 Kentley Avenue, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers went to that address and found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Officers elected not to set up a perimeter around the residence. Instead, officers entered the residence and announced their presence. Sergeant Buffie testified that he entered the residence because he believed that the driver of the vehicle, Wolden, was potentially in worse condition than C.T. and could have been severely injured.

Officers went to the basement and saw Wolden lying on a bed, under the covers. Officers observed that Wolden’s breathing and heartbeat were rapid. While Wolden was talking to the officers, they detected a strong odor of alcohol and noticed that his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Wolden told officers a second time that he did not need an ambulance. Law enforcement administered field sobriety tests, and Wolden performed poorly on the tests.  Wooden subsequently tested a .19 BAC on the Data Master Machine.

Wooden moved to suppress the evidence of his test result, etc. arguing that the police entry into his home was made without his consent or exigent circumstances to justify the entry.  The District Court disagreed finding that the "emergency aid" exception to the warrant requirement justified the entry.  On Appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, stating:

"It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 1380 (1980) (quotation omitted). “Nevertheless, the warrant requirement is subject to certain limited exceptions, and law enforcement officers . . . ‘may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.’” State v. Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d 783, 787-88 (Minn. 2007) ."

"The Minnesota Supreme Court uses a two-part test to determine whether a search was reasonable under the emergency-aid exception. Ries, 2018 WL 6332362, at *9 (citing Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). First, the police must have “reasonable grounds to believe that there is an emergency at hand and an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life or property.” Id. (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). And second, “[tjhere must be some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). “Under the emergency-aid exception, it does not matter if officers have reason to believe some criminal activity is afoot as long as they are objectively motivated by the need to give aid.” Id. (citing Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 404, 126 S. Ct. at 1948)."

"...the district court found that the vehicle “had extensive damage in multiple areas” and that “there was blood visible on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side of the vehicle.” This finding is unchallenged, and the photographs of the vehicle and accident scene support it. The district court also found that when officers encountered C.T. he had “severe injuries including numerous lacerations, and blood running down his face and head.” That finding is supported by the record, particularly, Sergeant Buffie’s testimony regarding C.T.’s “horrific” appearance. The totality of these circumstances provided the officers objectively reasonable grounds to suspect that Wolden might be seriously injured and need immediate aid."

***
"We turn to the second part of the emergency-aid test: whether there was some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched.  Here, police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at the residence to be searched, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Based on the information from police dispatch connecting Wolden to the residence, the proximity of the residence and accident scene, and the discovery of a key fob, outside of the garage of the residence, for a vehicle with the same make and model as the accident vehicle, there was a reasonable basis approximating probable cause to believe Wolden was at the residence and to associate the emergency with the residence."

Moral Of The Story:  You can run but you cannot hide!



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.