Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Scheffler, (decided March 30, 2015, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police can destroy evidence of the crime and there is not much a defendant can do about it.

In Scheffler, the Defendant was arrested for a 4th Degree DWI and he submitted to a urine test which revealed an alcohol concentration level of .18. Mr. Scheffler wanted to have the urine sample independently tested but by the time he made the request, the sample had been destroyed.

The Defendant moved to dismiss the DWI arguing that his due-process rights were violated by the destruction of the sample.  The District Court denied the motion and the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the district court noting:

"In determining whether the destruction of evidence constitutes a due-process violation, we first decide if the destroyed evidence had 'apparent and material exculpatory value. Evidence is not exculpatory if 'no more can be said than that the evidence could have been subjected to tests, the results of which might have exonerated the defendant.' (citation omitted). If destroyed evidence does not have apparent and material exculpatory value, then it must also be shown that the state did not act in bad faith when destroying the evidence.  Bad faith requires (1) an intentional act and (2) indicia that the state destroyed the evidence to avoid discovery of evidence beneficial to the defendant. Failure to follow standard procedures indicates bad faith. 

Scheffler's urine sample was tested and found to be inculpatory. The sample had no apparent exculpatory value. Scheffler was provided a copy of the report which stated explicitly that the "evidence will be destroyed by the laboratory twelve months following the date of this report." The sample was then destroyed according to the lab's standard procedures. Nothing in the record suggests that the sample was destroyed in bad faith."

So unless a defendant can show that an otherwise inculpatory sample was destroyed in bad faith (i.e. perhaps AFTER a request for testing was made), he has no remedy to challenge the test result.