Monday, July 23, 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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Schwartz (Decided July 23, 2018, Minnesota Court Of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that even a very minor traffic offense will justify the stop of a motor vehicle.  

In Schwartz, St. Cloud police officer Darin Vessel was on routine patrol in downtown St. Cloud. He observed a vehicle exit a parking ramp, followed the vehicle, and observed two suspected traffic violations. First, Officer Vossen observed the vehicle cross over the centerline during a right turn. Next, Officer Vossen observed the vehicle travel on the centerline. Officer Vossen stopped the vehicle and identified its driver as appellant Ashley Amy Schwartz. Based on his subsequent observations of Schwartz's appearance, Officer Vossen arrested her for DWI.

After the Defendant was convicted, she appealed arguing that the stop of her vehicle was illegal. Schwartz acknowledged that she violated traffic laws, but she argue dthat the violations did not justify the stop of her vehicle because they were "brief and minimal." She further argued that the violations "did not interrupt traffic or pose a risk to public safety." 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, rejected her contention stating:

"These arguments are unavailing because 'no matter how insignificant the traffic law,' a violation provides the requisite particularized and objective basis for a traffic stop. Anderson, 683 N.W.2d at 823; see also State v. McKinley, 305 Minn. 297, 304,232 N.W.2d 906, 911 (1975) ("All that is required is that the stop not be the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity)." 

The Court of Appeals noted that her driving conduct violated Minnesota Statute § 169.18 ("Upon all roadways of sufficient width a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway") and, therefore, affirmed her conviction.

Moral Of The Story: There is no such thing as being just a little bit pregnant.

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, July 16, 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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Abduljabbar (Decided July 16, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you do not object to the foundation for the admission of a Minnesota DWI breath test result, you have waived the right to object on appeal. 

In Abduljabbar, the defendant was pulled over for having a loud muffler. After the officer who pulled over Abduljabbar smelled alcohol and noticed that Abduljabbar's eyes were watery and bloodshot, she arrested Abduljabbar and took him to the Osseo police department for breath testing. That test indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.12.

A jury trial was held on and the state called one witness—the police officer who arrested Abduljabbar and performed the breath test. She testified that she was certified to operate the breath-test machine and that she knew how to recognize if the machine was not functioning properly. Although the officer testified that the machine was a "DataMaster transportable gas spectrometer with infrared option," she did not testify as to the specific model number, nor does that model number appear anywhere in the record. After describing how she went about operating the machine when testing Abduljabbar's breath, the officer testified, without objection, that machine measured a 0.12 alcohol concentration.

The Defendant was found guilty and on appeal, he argued that that the district court erred in admitting the results of the breath test without the state first (1) laying foundation that the machine used was one of the models approved by the Commissioner of Public Safety or (2) if it was not one of those models, laying foundation that the machine used provides a trustworthy and reliable measure of the alcohol in breath.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected the Defendant's argument finding that any objection to the test result was waived at the trial.  The Appellate Court noted:

"Generally, when a defendant fails to object to the admission of evidence at trial, the defendant forfeits review of that admission on appeal. State v. Fraga, 898 N.W.2d 263, 276 (Minn. 2017). However, "the plain-error rule provides a limited power to correct certain errors that a defendant has forfeited." Id. at 277 (quotation omitted).
The plain-error rule requires a defendant to establish (1) an error, (2) that is plain in that it violates or contradicts case law or a rule, and (3) that the error affects the defendant's substantial rights. If all three requirements are met, we then determine whether relief is required to ensure fairness and the integrity of the judicial proceedings."

"Although there is no on-the-record foundation that makes Abduljabbar's breath-test result admissible under Minn. R. Evid. 702 (or that exempts it from the rule's foundation requirement under Minn. Stat. § 634.16), this foundation is lacking because Abduljabbar did not object and force the state to lay it. Had Abduljabbar done so, the state could have asked the arresting officer what model of breath-test machine was used or else called an expert to testify as to the reliability of the device. Indeed, Abduljabbar is unable to cite any case where a Minnesota appellate court has, on plain-error review, reversed a conviction on the basis that otherwise admissible testimony was improperly admitted because the requisite foundation was not presented to the district court."

Moral Of The Story:  Only the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

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, July 2, 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. Deno (Decided July 2, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that defense questions must be relevant to the issue of intoxication in order to be admissible.

In Deno, a police dispatcher sent Trooper Scott Barstad to a parking lot in Rochester on a report of a suspected impaired driver with a bloody face sitting in a pickup truck. The trooper found and stopped Jerry Deno's truck after he saw it exceed the speed limit and drift over the centerline. After the stop, the trooper saw that Deno's face was bloody and bruised. The trooper also saw signs of Deno's intoxication: Deno smelled of a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage; his eyes were bloodshot; and he slurred his speech. The trooper administered the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which supported his suspicion that Deno was impaired. Deno refused to perform any other field sobriety tests, including a preliminary breath test.

Trooper Barstad took Deno to the detention center and read him the implied-consent advisory. The trooper asked Deno at least three times if he would submit to a breath test, but Deno refused. The state charged Deno with second-degree gross-misdemeanor test refusal, third-degree gross-misdemeanor   driving   while   impaired,   and   open-bottle possession.

Deno's trial strategy was to argue that his visible facial wounds implied that he had suffered a head injury that caused him merely to appear to be impaired. The district court treated this as a valid defense theory but prohibited Deno from arguing "to th[e] jury that [the arresting trooper's] decision not to contact emergency medical care or seek out medical care somehow negates probable cause." During Deno's cross examination of Trooper Barstad, the district court sustained relevancy objections to the following questions: "[H]ow far would you say [the traffic stop] was from the closest hospital?" "Well, in any event, you did not take him to the hospital. Correct?" "Knowing now that [many of the circumstances that led you to believe Deno was impaired could have also been explained by his head injuries,] . . . if you had to do it again . . . ?"

The Defendant was convicted and on appeal argued that the district court denied him his constitutional right to present a defense to the test-refusal charge.  Deno argued that by prohibiting him from asking questions that sought to undermine the existence of probable cause (by casting doubt on the trooper's decision not to take Deno for medical treatment), the district court abused its discretion.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed Deno's conviction stating:

"A defendant must exercise his right to present a complete defense within the bounds of the rules of evidence. State v. Henderson, 620 N.W.2d 688, 698 (Minn. 2001). Deno's challenged questions were irrelevant under the rules. "Evidence is relevant when it logically or reasonably tends to prove or disprove a material fact in issue, or tends to make such a fact more or less probable, or affords a basis for or supports a reasonable inference or presumption regarding the existence of a material fact." State v. Walen, 563 N.W.2d 742, 749 (Minn. 1997)."

"Questioning the trooper about the proximity to the nearest hospital would not elicit any evidence relevant to whether probable cause existed. The location of a hospital has no bearing on whether a reasonable officer would suspect that impaired driving was caused by alcohol consumption. Deno's other two challenged questions—"[I]f you had to do it again" and "You did not take him to the hospital"—likewise would not draw any testimony about whether probable cause existed at the time of the arrest. See id. The district court appropriately sustained the state's relevancy objections."

Moral Of The Story:  If you have had too much to drink, don't drive or get into a fight!

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.