Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Minnesota DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota Case

The Minnesota DWI Case of the Week is: State v. James Peters, (Unpublished Minn.App. 9/1/2009). The case is interesting because it stands for the proposition that if you are going to get arrested for DWI you may as well lie to the cops because you can't get in any more trouble!

In Peters, the Defendant was stopped for erratic driving and when the officer approached Defendant's vehicle, Mr. Peters told the deputy, "Don't worry about this, the Department of Justice will be here shortly and this will all be taken care of." [so whenever ever you get pulled over, be sure to contact the Attorney General for the United States, Eric Holder!!!]

The deputy asked for identification and the Defendant replied that he didn't have any but he orally identified himself as "Daniel John Peters, born May 19, 1979" . (i.e. his brother). After failing field sobriety tests, the Defendant was placed under arrest for DWI. A subsequent search of his vehicle revealed the presence of the Defendant's Wisconsin license establishing his true identity as "James Christian Peters."

The Defendant had one outstanding warrant at the time of his arrest.

The Defendant was subsequently convicted of DWI and providing False Information to a Police Officer. On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals threw out the False Information conviction, reasoning:

"Minnesota law 'allows multiple convictions for different incidents (counts) arising out of a single behavioral incident, but prohibits multiple sentences for conduct that is part of a single behavioral incident.' (citations omitted). When a single behavioral incident results in the violation of multiple criminal statutes, the offender may be punished only for the most severe offense. (citations omitted). This rule avoids exaggerating the criminality of the defendant's conduct and makes both punishment and prosecution commensurate with culpability."

"The determination of whether multiple offense are part of a single behavioral act ... involves an examination of all the facts and circumstances. (citation omitted). In making this determination, a court 'must consider whether the offense (1) arose from a continuous and uninterrupted course of conduct, (2) occurred at substantially the same time and place, and (3) manifested an indivisible state of mind, or were motivated by a single criminal objective'." (citation omitted).

The defendant argues that he gave the false information to law enforcement to avoid apprehension for DWI and that the state has not met its burden to prove otherwise. The State argues that the defendant gave false information not to avoid apprehension for DWI, but to avoid being arrested on an outstanding warrant.

The Court of Appeals noted that while there is "ample and contradictory case law addressing the problem of ascertaining a defendant's motivation," the Minnesota Supreme Court case of State v. Gibson, 478 N.W.2d 496, (Minn. 1991) appears to settle the issue.

In Gibson, the defendant was convicted of criminal vehicular operation resulting in injury and leaving the scene of an accident. The Supreme Court vacated the lesser of the two sentences, concluding that the defendant, "committed the felonious act of leaving the scene of an accident in part to avoid being apprehended for any crime committed in connection with the accident". Id at 497.

The Court of Appeals in Peters then held that while, "this is a close case" ... "we conclude that [defendant's] offenses constituted a single behavioral incident". Defendant's "provision of a false name and date of birth to avoid being arrested for DWI may have been misguided and futile, but the state has not met its burden to show that his desire did not serve, in part, as motivation for" defendant.

The Court of Appeals, therefore, vacated the conviction for False Information to a Police Officer.


F.T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Attorney, Minnesota DUI Lawyer, Minneapolis DWI Attorney, Minneapolis DUI Lawyer