Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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

The Minnesota DWI case of the week is the published decision of Pallas v. Commissioner of Public Safety. (decided 4/20/2010).

Mr. Pallas obtained multiple Minnesota DWI convictions and had previously taken his act on the road as he had also obtained four Illinois DWI convictions.  The State of Illinois had issued a lifetime ban prohibiting him from ever receiving an Illinois license.

Mr. Pallas eventually applied for a Minnesota driver's license but the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety denied the application for a Minnesota license on the basis that he had not obtained a "clearance letter" from the State of Illinois indicating he was cleared to drive in Illinois, a practical impossibility.

Mr. Pallas petitioned the district court but the court upheld the Commissioner's decision to deny Mr. Pallas a Minnesota driver's license.  On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court, noting that Mr. Pallas had completed the rehabilitation requirements to obtain a Minnesota license and to refuse to issue a Minnesota license based upon the failure to provide a clearance letter from the State of Illinois violated Article V of the Interstate Driver License Compact (codified in Minnesota in § 171.50).

Minnesota Statute § 171.50 states in pertinent part, "...after the expiration of one year from the date the license was revoked, such person may make application for a new license if permitted by law.  The licensing authority may refuse to issue a license to any such applicant if, after investigation, the licensing authority determines that it will not be safe to grant to such person the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the public highways." (emphasis added).

The Court of Appeals noted that:

"The statute does not expressly allow the commissioner to replace the investigative process with a clearance-letter requirement, or even to impose a clearance-letter requirement.  We cannot construe the statute as allowing the commissioner to condition issuing a Minnesota license on the applicant's ability to secure a clearance letter."
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"Not only was the clearance-letter condition contrary to law, but in this case the unauthorized condition was also a mirage.  The commissioner through legal counsel acknowledged in 2002 that 'it will be impossible for Pallas to get a clearance letter from Illinois because he is under a lifetime  revocation based upon having four DWI's on his record', and the district court acknowledged the same.  It might be that 'after investigation' the commissioner would find that it will be unsafe to license Pallas in Minnesota.  But neither an investigation nor factfinding occurred here.  Instead, Pallas was denied a license based on his failure to meet a condition that was legally implausible and practically 'nigh impossible."
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"In sum. the compact plainly provides that an applicant can be issued a license in Minnesota notwithstanding a lengthy revocation in another state and that before refusing to issue the license the commissioner must determine that issuing it would be unsafe.  By requiring a clearance letter, the commissioner rendered Article V meaningless and divested himself of the discretion conferred under the compact. This cannot be the result that the legislature intended.  We reverse and remand for the commissioner to decide the question of Pallas's reinstatement on the basis authorized by statute."

Gee, I wonder what the Commissioner is going to decide?  But since Mr. Pallas is otherwise eligible to obtain a limited Minnesota license, the Commissioner will be hard pressed to legitimately deny the issuance of a license.

Moral of the Story: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to obtain a license and I will show you how!

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

F. T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Lawyer