Tuesday, March 9, 2010

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

The Minnesota DWI Case of the week is   State v. Cypher   which stands for the proposition that it is not nice to try to fool the District Court or the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Mr. Cypher was charged with Felony DWI and his attorney requested a pretrial hearing to contest the validity of the initial stop of vehicle. But then Mr. Cypher's attorney decided to get creative.  Or, as stated by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in its decision:

"We note that when appellant requested a contested omnibus hearing he asserted that the 'sole issue' was the stop, and at the hearing, appellant's attorney reiterated that the 'one issue' was the stop.  But following the arresting officer's testimony, appellant's attorney declared: 'The vehicle was never identified and appellant was never identified, the State can't uphold the stop'.  Appellant challenged the officer's identification of appellant as the driver of the vehicle.  The district court gave the parties an opportunity to respond to appellant's identification challenge before concluding that the officer identified appellant and that appellant was the only occupant of the vehicle."

"Appellant similarly raises this issue on appeal with misplaced confidence, deeming it a sure-fire triumph.  But appellant's attorney's tactic to attempt to hoodwink the prosecutor and the district court by raising this issue in the manner in which he did, although clever from his perspective, was imprudent.  We note that after appellant's attorney remarked in district court that the officer failed to identify appellant and, as a result, the state could not uphold the stop, the district court had the discretion to reopen the record and allow additional testimony from the officer, which it did not."

"Additionally, the district court could have precluded appellant from challenging identification because when appellant raised the 'sole issue' of the stop, he no longer had standing to challenge whether he was the driver.  Appellant essentially conceded that he was the driver when he challenged the legality of the stop and he was the vehicle's sole occupant; he had no standing to challenge the stop if he was not the driver."


"Standing" is a basic concept in the law and it means that unless you have been personally aggrieved by a police search or seizure you may not bring a challenge to the police action.  For example, if the police break into my neighbor's house, I have no "standing" to challenge the search even if it was illegal as I have no interest in the area searched.

Or, as in the present case, you can't challenge the legality of the initial stop where you are claiming that you were not the driver. If you were not the driver, then you do not have any interest (i.e. standing) in the legality of the police conduct. Duh!

Had the defendant's attorney been serious about challenging the identity the driver, he should have brought a Motion to Dismiss for lack of probable cause.  Instead, he decided to get cute and got spanked by the Appellate Court for forgetting about a fundamental concept in the law of search and seizure.

Moral of the Story:  It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature or The Minnesota Court of Appeals!

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

F. T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Lawyer