The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Dunn (Decided February 20, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you have been driving drunk and make it home, under no circumstances should you allow the police to enter your home without a warrant!
In Dunn, White Bear Lake police officer Isaac Tuma was dispatched in response to a 911 call regarding a possibly intoxicated driver. The caller, N.R., had followed the suspect, who was driving a black Mercedes, as she drove away from a dry-cleaning business. Officer Tuma testified that the dispatcher relayed to him N.R.'s information about the location of the black Mercedes as N.R. followed it until the Mercedes pulled into the driveway of a residence.
N.R. explained that he was at the dry cleaners when he saw a "red-haired elderly woman get out of the Mercedes and hold herself up on the car as she walked from the driver's door around the back of the car to the passenger door." He further stated that the woman leaned on her car and the building for support. She said "oh my leg's not working" as she wobbled through the door. N.R. told Officer Tuma that he waited for the woman to leave the dry cleaners so that he could follow her car. According to N.R., he followed the woman's car and noticed that she was having trouble staying in her own lane and made a "very wide turn." Officer Tuma testified that he believed the described driving behavior was consistent with the driver being under the influence of alcohol. N.R. confirmed to the officer that he continued following the woman's car until it pulled into a driveway. Near the end of the interview, Officer Tuma told N.R. that "we have your statement so no matter what we can test her."
Officer Tuma testified that, after hearing N.R.'s description of respondent's behavior, he was concerned that the driver may have been intoxicated or having some medical issues. Officer Tuma explained that he has responded to calls of suspected drunk drivers in the past that turned out to be medical emergencies, and mentioned one case in which he responded to an accident where it turned out that the driver was having a diabetic reaction. He testified that he went to respondent's house to conduct a welfare check. When Officer Tuma and a second officer arrived at respondent's house, her husband, G.C., answered the door. Officer Tuma, wearing his police uniform and arriving in a fully marked squad car, identified himself as a police officer.
Officer Tuma told G.C. that someone had called the police because they were worried about respondent's welfare after she was seen using her vehicle to hold herself up. G.C. said that respondent was probably holding herself up because of her back issues, but that she was in the bedroom and was doing fine. Officer Tuma testified that he wanted to personally see respondent to make sure that things were okay. G.C. invited the officer inside and said that he would go get respondent.
Eventually, respondent, whom Officer Tuma recognized from her driver's license picture, entered the room. Officer Tuma noticed that respondent was having difficulty walking, which he testified that he thought might have been due to her back problem. However, Officer Tuma said that when respondent reached the couch, she tried using her hand for support as she sat down but missed the couch, which left her leaning in an awkward position such that Officer Tuma and G.C. moved to assist her. After assisting respondent, Officer Tuma began asking respondent questions about whether she had consumed any alcohol or medications. As respondent answered, Officer Tuma smelled alcohol on her breath. Officer Tuma testified that based on the smell of alcohol, respondent's lack of balance, and her slurred speech and red eyes, he believed that she was under the influence of alcohol. At that point-after smelling the alcohol-Officer Tuma testified that his purpose switched from conducting a welfare check to investigating a DWI. He later arrested respondent and obtained a breath sample that showed a 0.25 alcohol concentration. G.C, a retired physician and intellectual-property attorney, also testified at the omnibus hearing. He testified that Officer Tuma told him that his purpose was to conduct a welfare check on respondent based on a report that respondent was having difficulty walking. G.C. stated that he told Officer Tuma that respondent had a back condition, and that respondent came home and put laundry away, then went to bed and was fine apart from her back issues. According to G.C, Officer Tuma was "persistent in explaining that he really needed to satisfy himself that [respondent] was, in fact, fine." G.C. testified that he felt like he had no choice but to let Officer Tuma see respondent and that he did not think it mattered whether he said that respondent was fine or not. He felt "forced into acquiescing to [the officers'] demands that they physically see her." G.C. testified that if he had known that Officer Tuma was investigating a DWI, he would not have let the officers inside without a warrant. G.C. explained that, while he was an attorney, he did not know how welfare checks fit into Fourth-Amendment law. He practiced intellectual-property law and did not know whether he could insist on a warrant.
Respondent moved to suppress the evidence obtained after the officers entered her house, arguing that G.C.'s consent to the entry was not voluntary because Officer Tuma misrepresented the purpose for which he sought entry. The district court granted respondent's motion to suppress all of the evidence obtained by the officer following his entry into respondent's home.
On Appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rightly affirmed the district court. The police officer was a liar and it is good to see that the district court and court of appeals were not buying his "welfare check" testimony. As explained by the Court of Appeals:
"The state argues that the district court erred in concluding that G.C.'s consent to Officer Tuma's entry was involuntary. "The question of whether consent is voluntary is a question of fact, and is based on all relevant circumstances." State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 222 (Minn. 1992) (citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, All U.S. 218, 227, 93 S. Ct. 2041, 2047-48 (1973)). We will not reverse a district court's finding concerning the voluntariness of consent unless it is clearly erroneous. State v. Hummel, 483 N.W.2d 68, 73 (Minn. 1992). Because the trial court is obviously in the better position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, the state on appeal must show clearly and unequivocally that the trial court erred in finding that consent was involuntary."
"In order to be voluntary, consent must be given without coercion and must not be a mere submission to an assertion of authority. State v. Dezso, 512 N.W.2d 877, 880 (Minn. 1994). Voluntariness is determined by examining "the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the encounter, the kind of person the defendant is, and what was said and how it was said." Id. "[I]f under all the circumstances it has appeared that the consent was not given voluntarily-that it was coerced by threats or force, or granted only in submission to a claim of lawful authority," then the consent is invalid."
"Misrepresentations about the nature of an investigation may be evidence of coercion." State v. Bunce, 669 N.W.2d 394, 399 (Minn. App. 2003) (quoting United States v. Turpin, 101 F.2d 332, 334 (8th Cir. 1983)), review denied (Minn. Dec. 16, 2003). If consent to search is given based on reliance upon a misrepresentation, the consent will be invalid."
"The district court found that Officer Tuma "gained entry to the home under false pretenses," and that telling G.C. that he was there for a welfare check was a "misrepresentation" that "rose to such a level of deception as to invalidate" G.C.'s consent. G.C. initially denied the officer entry. The district court found that it was only after the "misrepresentation" that G.C. allowed Officer Tuma to enter the home, and see and visit with respondent. The district court implicitly found that the officer did not actually have the purpose to do a welfare check and, instead, intentionally misidentified that as his purpose to obtain G.C.'s consent to enter the home and continue the DWI investigation."
"The district court found that Officer Tuma told G.C. only that he wanted to conduct a welfare check and made no mention of any belief that respondent may have been driving while impaired. The district court implicitly rejected the contention that Officer Tuma was conducting a welfare check. During his discussion with N.R., Officer Tuma expressed no concern about respondent's health. N.R. expressed no belief or concern that respondent was ill or injured; he thought she was drunk. At the conclusion of the interview, Officer Tuma told N.R. that "no matter what we can test her." In concluding that "Officer Tuma was investigating a DWI," the district court implicitly made a credibility determination rejecting Officer Tuma's multiple-purpose claim concerning his request to enter respondent's home. "Because the trial court is obviously in the better position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, the state on appeal must show clearly and unequivocally that the trial court erred in finding that consent was involuntary." Schweich, 414 N.W.2d at 230. We apply this standard of review, and view the record evidence as a whole. The district court did not clearly and unequivocally err in finding that Officer Tuma misrepresented the purpose for which he sought entry."
Moral of the Story: You do not have to open the door of your home unless the police have a search warrant!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.