Monday, June 25, 2018

Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Meyer (Decided June 25, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if a Data Master breath test result appears to be reliable, it is incumbent upon the driver to show why the test is not trustworthy.

In Meyer, the Defendant was arrested for a DWI and he tested at .14% alcohol concentration on the Data Master Breath testing machine (DMT).  The case went to trial and the sole witness was the sheriff's deputy, who testified that he properly administered the DMT and that the DMT was working properly. The printed DMT result was admitted into evidence and published for the jury without objection. The jury found appellant guilty of second-degree DWI.

On Appeal, the Defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence claiming that the DMT test was not reliable.  The Defendant, however, did not produce any evidence as to why the test was not reliable.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, noting:

"The test result of a DMT, which is an 'approved breath-testing instrument,' is admissible without expert testimony that the result is trustworthy or reliable if the test is performed by a fully trained person. Minn. Stat. § 634.16 (2016)".

"The proponent of the test must show that "the necessary steps have been taken to ensure reliability," and thereafter, "it is incumbent on the driver to suggest a reason why the [breath] test was untrustworthy." State v. Nelson, 399 N.W.2d 629, 632 (Minn. App. 1987).

In this case, the sheriff's deputy testified that he did not observe any malfunction or interference with the DMT machine, and appellant concedes that the DMT was functioning properly on November 9, 2015. The record also supports that the deputy was certified to operate the DMT as of September 15, 2015, and that he had training and field practice in operating a DMT. The deputy testified that he followed the procedure and protocol consistent with his DMT training in administering appellant's DMT test.

"To rebut the state's prima facie showing of admissibility and presumed reliability, appellant must show a reason why the DMT test result is untrustworthy. Nelson, 399 N.W.2d at 632. To do so requires more than '"speculation that something might have occurred to invalidate th[e] results."

"On this record, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably infer that the DMT methodology, operation, and test result were accurate, valid, and reliable, and thus, for the jury to rely on the DMT result in reaching its verdict.   The record shows that appellant's DMT test result was 0.14 AC within two hours of driving.   Therefore, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably conclude that the state proved that appellant was guilty of second-degree DWI beyond a reasonable doubt."

Moral Of The Story:  Saying something is true does not make it so.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI or are facing the DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and forfeiture questions.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Minnesota DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Robinson v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided June 18, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the current Court will affirm just about any vehicle stop.

In Robinson, Officer Donahue of the Edina Police Department was on routine patrol in the area of Edina High School and Valley View Middle School. At approximately 12:55 a.m., while conducting a directed patrol of the area, Officer Donahue pulled into the east entrance of the parking lot to the west of Valley View Middle School. As he entered the parking lot, Officer Donahue observed a dark passenger car drive by the western edge of the parking lot the officer had just entered, and drive out the west entrance. The vehicle's lights were on, and the road the vehicle was driving on encircles the schools and connects all of the school parking lots. Officer Donahue testified that "there was a large construction site near that part of the school where the vehicle came out.

At the time Officer Donahue saw the vehicle, there were no other cars in the area and the lights in the high school were off; the school appeared closed. Officer Donahue testified that he found the vehicle's presence suspicious because it was late, the high school was closed, and there was a construction site at the high school near where the vehicle was located. Officer Donahue has worked for the Edina Police Department for about two years and has been a licensed peace officer in Minnesota for about nine years, and in Officer Donahue's training and experience, "construction sites are often sought out by thieves for theft and damage-related crimes." The district court found Officer Donahue's testimony credible.

After observing the vehicle, Officer Donahue followed it. Officer Donahue saw the vehicle cross Valley View Road onto Chapel Lane, where he caught up to it and ran a license plate check, which showed that a lease company owned the vehicle and that the lessee lived on the 5500 block of Goya Lane. Goya Lane is approximately one mile north of Edina High School.

Officer Donahue continued following the vehicle and thought that the route taken by the vehicle was suspicious because it was not the most direct route from the school to the address on Goya Lane. Robinson crossed Valley View Road, drove along several residential streets to the south of Valley View Road, and then turned onto Valley View Road. Officer Donahue initiated a traffic stop on Valley View Road, the vehicle stopped almost immediately, and Officer Donahue identified Robinson as the driver. From when Officer Donahue first observed the vehicle, until he stopped it on Valley View Road, he did not observe any traffic or equipment violations, inappropriate, unusual, or unlawful driving, and found no outstanding warrants.

Mr. Robinson was subsequently arrested for DWI and tested at .10% BAC at the police station.  Mr Robinson filed a challenge to the license revocation alleging the officer did not have a sufficient basis for the stop.  The district court upheld the revocation and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, stating:

"Officer Donahue had a particularized and objective basis to stop Robinson. Robinson was driving on school grounds around 1:00 a.m., near a construction site at the high school, when the school was closed. He was driving on a road that encircled both schools and does not provide access to anywhere other than the schools, their parking lots, and the construction site at the high school—the road is more akin to a driveway than to a public thru-street. And when Robinson drove out of the school area, he drove across a main road, through several residential roads, only to return to the main road—which he could have turned directly on to as he left the school area. Standing alone, each individual fact may not be sufficient to support reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. But viewed together, and through the eyes of Officer Donahue's experience and training that construction sites are often targeted for theft and vandalism crimes, Officer Donahue had a particularized and objective basis for an investigatory stop."


Moral Of The Story:  If you have been drinking, do not go to school!

If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Horn (Decided June 11, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police cannot ask for consent to search your vehicle if the search is unrelated to the traffic stop. 

In Horn, Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Thostenson observed Mr. Horn driving an automobile and stopped him because he was not wearing a seatbelt. Sergeant Thostenson asked Horn for proof of insurance. Horn gave Sergeant Thostenson an expired insurance card and did not look for any other proof of insurance in his vehicle. Sergeant Thostenson thought this behavior was odd and testified that some people avoid opening areas where insurance cards are normally kept because they have contraband or weapons in those areas. Sergeant Thostenson observed that Horn avoided eye contact, appeared excessively nervous, talked very fast and was slow to respond to some questions. Sergeant Thostenson also smelled a faint odor of marijuana coming from Horn's vehicle.

Sergeant Thostenson returned to his squad car, printed a ticket for the seatbelt violation, returned to Horn's car, and asked Horn to step out of his vehicle. Sergeant Thostenson noticed that Horn's front teeth were discolored and decaying. He testified that such conditions indicated drug use. Sergeant Thostenson explained the seatbelt citation to Horn, handed Horn the ticket, and asked Horn if he had any questions before the sergeant let him go. Horn responded, "No." Sergeant Thostenson then asked Horn if he could take a quick look in Horn's vehicle. Horn agreed to the ensuing vehicle search.

During the search of Horn's vehicle, Sergeant Thostenson found a zippered container, which he recognized as the type of container commonly used for drugs and paraphernalia. He opened the container and found a pipe and methamphetamine inside. Horn admitted that he had used methamphetamine earlier that morning. Horn agreed to perform field sobriety tests and performed poorly on the tests. Sergeant Thostenson arrested Horn, obtained a search warrant to test his blood, and the blood sample was positive for methamphetamine.

Mr. Horn was charged with DWI and possession of a controlled substance.  The defense moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing that Sergeant Thostenson's incremental intrusion of asking to search Horn's vehicle was unrelated to the purpose of the stop for failure to wear a seatbelt and that the circumstances did not otherwise justify the request to search the vehicle. Horn therefore argued that the evidence obtained as a result of the search should be suppressed.

At the suppression hearing, Sergeant Thostenson admitted that after he handed Horn the seatbelt-violation ticket, Horn was free to go, but that he nonetheless asked to search Horn's car after he gave Horn the ticket.  

The district court denied Horn's motion to suppress, concluding that "the odor of marijuana along with the other factors was sufficient to justify" the trooper's request to search the vehicle.  On appeal, however, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court  noting:

"When a search is conducted pursuant to consent . . . , neither probable cause nor a warrant is required." State v. Pilot, 595 N.W.2d 511, 519 (Minn. 1999). However, a "suspect's consent, taken alone, is insufficient to permit expansion of a routine traffic stop; the police officer must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of further criminal activity in order to request to expand the stop.   State v. Volkman, 675 N.W.2d 337, 341 (Minn. App. 2004)."

"Horn contends that any suspicions that might have justified the request to search his vehicle were dispelled prior to the request. He notes that Sergeant Thostenson "had completed the initial stop and immediately before asking to search the car, he had admittedly concluded that Horn was 'free to go.' Horn therefore argues that 'regardless of anything [Sergeant Thostenson] may have observed prior to handing [him] the ticket, when he asked to search the car, no reasonable suspicion remained.' Horn concludes that "because the search of [his] car was invalid, the fruits of the search and all related evidence must be suppressed."

The Minnesota Court of Appeals justifiably ruled in favor of the Defendant, stating:

"We would have a difficult time concluding that Sergeant Thostenson articulated constitutionally adequate support for his request to search Horn's vehicle given his testimony that Horn was free to go before the request. Sergeant Thostenson's agreement that Horn was no longer seized when he asked to search Horn's vehicle significantly undercuts the state's argument that the trooper articulated reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that justified the request to search. In our view, this record does not support a conclusion that Sergeant Thostenson articulated reasonable suspicion justifying his request to search Horn's vehicle. We therefore hold that the search was unconstitutional and reverse the district court's order denying Horn's motion to suppress."

Moral Of The Story:  Never, ever, ever consent to a search! Ever!!

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 Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Holt (Decided June 4, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that it doesn't take much for the police to demand a preliminary breath test.

In Holt, the Defendant was stopped for failure to signal a turn.  Mr. Holt provided the police officer with proof of insurance but not a driver's license.  Mr. Holt identified himself and provided a date of birth, but when the officer entered that information into his system, it brought up a photo that did not match the driver. The officer continued to attempt to identify the driver, but the driver could not confirm his address or when he last had his license renewed. The officer placed the driver under arrest for giving a false name.

While walking the driver to his squad car, the officer noticed he smelled of alcohol and asked how much alcohol he had to drink that night. Mr. Holt was non-responsive.

After transporting him to a police station, the officer was able to identify the driver as appellant Sedrick Lamar Holt. Once identified, the officer discovered Holt's driving privileges were cancelled, and he had an active felony warrant. The officer also noticed Holt's eyes were red and watery. The officer asked Holt to complete field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test, but Holt refused.

Holt agreed to a breath test. He was instructed on how to provide an accurate sample, but after nine tries Holt was unable to provide that sample. The officer deemed Holt's failure to provide an adequate sample a refusal.

The Defendant was subsequently convicted of Felony DWI and on appeal argued that the evidence should have been suppressed by the district court as the police officer did not hav a reasonable, articulable suspicion to request that Holt submit to a preliminary breath test.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against the Defendant stating:

"Whether an officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion is determined by the totality of the circumstances. State v. Martinson, 581 N.W.2d 846, 852 (Minn. 1998). Articulable suspicion can arise when there is evidence of sufficient indicia of intoxication. State v. Driscoll, All N.W.2d 263, 265-66 (Minn. App. 1988). Both an odor of alcohol and bloodshot and watery eyes are indicia of intoxication. State v. Klamar, 823 N. W.2d 687, 696 (Minn. App. 2012). And a traffic violation coupled with indicia of intoxication can provide reasonable, articulable suspicion.  The district court determined the totality of the circumstances provided the officer with reasonable, articulable suspicion. We agree."

"Here, the officer stopped Holt after observing him commit a traffic violation—he failed to signal a turn. The officer approached the vehicle, and Holt only rolled down his window two to three inches to talk to the officer. After talking to the officer and failing to confirm necessary information to prove his identity, Holt was removed from the car and placed under arrest for providing a false name to police. It was when Holt was removed from his car and placed into a squad car that the officer first noticed Holt smelled of alcohol and asked how much alcohol Holt had to drink that evening. And once the officer brought Holt to the police station, he noticed Holt had red and watery eyes. The officer than asked Holt to complete field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test. Because the officer witnessed a traffic violation and noticed multiple signs of intoxication prior to requesting the preliminary test, he had reasonable, articulable suspicion that Holt was driving while impaired by alcohol consumption."

Moral Of The Story:  A traffic violation plus one or more indicia of alcohol consumption will always furnish a sufficient basis for the police to request a preliminary breath test (PBT).

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.