Monday, January 25, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case of the Week is Torgerson v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided January 25, 2016, Unpublished, Minnesota Court of Appeals) which stands for the proposition that a breath test result will be deemed "reliable" even if the fuel cell on the DataMaster breath machine has been turned off.

In Torgerson, the Petitioner was arrested for a DWI and agreed to submit to a breath test at the police station where he tested over the legal limit of .08. The Petitioner challenged the revocation of his license noting that the DataMaster has two breath-alcohol measuring devices contained within the machine, i.e. : (1) infrared measuring device and, (2) a fuel cell measuring device.  And since the fuel cell measuring device on the machine was turned off, the Petitioner argued that with the fuel cell disabled, the scientific procedures necessary to ensure an accurate and reliable alcohol concentration test were not performed and that the revocation should, therefore, be rescinded.

The District Court sustained the revocation and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, stating:

"A breathalyzer test reading conducted by a certified operator may be admitted into evidence if it is established that the machine was in proper working order and the chemicals in proper condition. Once a prima facie showing of trustworthy administration has occurred, it is incumbent on the opponent to suggest a reason why the test was untrustworthy." (citation omitted)

"Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 11 (2014) defines 'infrared or other approved breath-testing instrument' as 'a breath-testing instrument that employs infrared or other technology and has been approved by the commissioner of public safety for determining alcohol concentration.'  Minn. R. 7502.0425, subs. 2 (2015) states 'the DataMaster DMT-G is approved by the commissioner for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration of a breath sample, proved that the sample is analyzed using either the unit's infrared technology or the unit's infrared technology in conjunction with its fuel cell technology'".

"The district court found no evidence that the DataMaster results are not accurate and reliable because the fuel-cell option was disabled and ruled that, rather than merely point to an alleged defect, appellant must demonstrate that the alleged defect actually affected the test results.'

The Court of Appeals then ruled that, "The DataMaster DMT-G with Fuel Cell Option is an approved instrument for analyzing a breath sample, using either the unit's infrared technology, or the infrared technology in conjunction with the fuel-cell technology. The officer who conducted the test was a certified operator; the machine was in proper working order; and there was no indication that the chemicals were not in proper condition...Thus, the state satisfied its burden for an admissible breath test."

Moral Of The Story: Good Enough For Government Work.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for 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 questions.

Monday, January 11, 2016

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

The Minnesota DWI Case of the Week is State v. Fawcett (Decided January 11, 2016, Published, Minnesota Court of Appeals) which stands for the proposition that if the police obtain a warrant to obtain a blood sample, they do not need to obtain a separate search warrant to have the blood sample analyzed for other drugs by the BCA Lab.

In Fawcett, the Defendant ran a red light and was hit by another vehicle.  When the police arrived, they noticed the Defendant smelled of alcohol and Ms. Fawcett admitted drinking at the local VFW.  Because the crash involved possible injuries to the occupants of the other vehicle, the police sought and obtained a search warrant which authorized a blood sample to be taken from Fawcett and be "forwarded to an approved lab for testing."

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) subsequently issued a toxicology report stating that Fawcett's blood contained no alcohol and that an additional toxicology report would follow.  A second BCA report indicated the presence in Fawcett's blood of THC and Alprazolam, both of which are controlled substances.

The Defendant was charged with Criminal Vehicular Operation and Fawcett moved to suppress all evidence of the presence of drugs in the blood sample.  The district court granted Fawcett's motion to suppress the evidence finding that the blood sample was lawfully obtained under the search warrant and that testing the blood for alcohol was lawful but that testing the blood for the presence of drugs was unlawful.

On appeal by the State, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, holding:

Once a blood sample has been lawfully removed from a person's body, a person loses an expectation of privacy in the blood sample, and a subsequent chemical analysis of the blood sample is, therefore, not a distinct Fourth Amendment event. The district court considered that such a rule necessarily means that a person's blood could 'thereafter be tested without a warrant for any purpose at any time, such as future drug testing or DNA comparisons.' Although such circumstances are not before us, we note that Schmerber dictates that a standard of reasonableness controls and that an unnecessary invasion of privacy interests would most certainly raise concerns of reasonableness. See Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 768, 86 S. Ct. at 1834;  We conclude that in this case the test for controlled substances does not raise concerns of reasonableness.

Because we conclude that the chemical analysis of a lawfully obtained blood sample is not a distinct Fourth Amendment event requiring a warrant, we need not consider whether the search warrant in this case was sufficiently particular or whether exigent circumstances justified a warrantless chemical analysis of Fawcett's blood. If the state lawfully obtains a blood sample for the purpose of chemical analysis, then a chemical analysis of the sample that does not offend standards of reasonableness is not a separate search requiring a warrant."

So even though there was no probable cause to search the Defendant's blood for drugs, the Court of Appeals in today's ruling, finds that probable cause to search for one drug equals probable cause to search for all drugs.