Monday, January 14, 2019

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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Green (Decided January 14, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you choose to represent yourself, you have a fool for a client.

In Green, the Defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of a car with two open beer cans in the front-seat cup holders. He was drunk. Facing one count of first-degree driving while impaired and one count of first-degree driving while impaired—test refusal, Green moved to dismiss the charges for lack of probable cause. The district court denied the motion, and Green fired his public defender. Green moved the district court to order Anoka County to pay for services to assist with his self-representation, including an investigator, a paralegal, office supplies, and law-library fees. The district court denied the motion.  

On appeal, the Court affirmed the district court noting:

"The statute does not expressly authorize self-represented indigent defendants to apply for investigative services. It provides, “Counsel appointed by the court for an indigent defendant, or representing a[n indigent] defendant . . . may file an ex parte application requesting investigative, expert, or other services necessary to an adequate defense in the case.” Minn. Stat. § 611.21 (emphasis added). The section is one part of a broader statutory scheme that provides for a defendant’s right to a public defender. See Minn. Stat. §§ 611.14-.273 (2018). We previously observed that section “611.21 provides a ‘safety valve’ of court-ordered funding for [services other than counsel] when public defender budgets are depleted.” See In re Wilson, 509N.W.2d568, 571 (Minn. App. 1993). It is not apparent that the statute authorizes anyone other than appointed counsel to apply for services. Neither party addresses this general-application issue, however, and we can decide Green’s appeal on its specific necessary-to-an-adequate-defense grounds. Green contends that the district court should have found that the requested services were necessary for his defense. The contention fails."

"Green sought investigative services to learn more about the ignition-interlock system and police-officer training for an additional omnibus hearing and trial. The information is unnecessary for an omnibus hearing, because the district court already rejected Green’s argument that the temporary inoperability of his car due to the ignition- interlock device defeated the charge. See State v. Starfield, 481 N.W.2d 834, 838-39 (Minn. 1992) (concluding that whether temporary inoperability of a car precludes a defendant from being in “physical control” of a vehicle is a fact question for the jury). To the extent Green’s defense at trial might rely on the alleged inoperability of the car by virtue of the ignition-interlock device, Jeeninga’s testimony would satisfy the objective, and Green can secure his testimony by subpoena. Green failed to show how the requested investigative services are necessary for an adequate defense."

"Green also sought a paralegal to help him with legal research. But lawyers conduct legal research, and Green rejected the legal services of the public defender’s office.  By discharging the public defender, Green rejected taxpayer-funded legal assistance, which included the legal research his counsel would have provided and any related paralegal assistance."

Moral Of The Story:  Sometimes the best advice is free!

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

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. Fernandez, (Decided January 7, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that it does not take much to allow the police to expand a traffic stop to investigate intoxication for a DWI arrest.

In Fernandez, Officer William Hullopeter stopped a vehicle when he discovered that the registered owner, a 48-year-old woman, had a cancelled driver’s license. As he exited his squad car and approached the vehicle, Officer Hullopeter observed that the driver, who was not a female, had bloodshot, watery eyes, and that his breath had a “strong minty odor” emanating from the gum he was chewing. Officer Hullopeter also observed “beer cans directly behind the driver’s seat,” and that the driver was wearing two paper wristbands that are the type commonly issued at events where alcohol is served. Officer Hullopeter identified the driver as appellant Christian Fernandez and asked him to perform several field sobriety tests, the results of which indicated impairment. The officer arrested Fernandez, transported him to the Blue Earth County Jail, and read him the Implied Consent Advisory. Fernandez agreed to provide a breath test, which revealed an alcohol concentration of 0.10.

Fernandez moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the stop, arguing that the stop was unlawfully expanded because Officer Hullopeter should not have further approached the driver as soon as he shined his spotlight into the vehicle and determined that the driver was not a female and therefore was not the registered owner of the vehicle with the canceled driver’s license. 

The district court found that “the officer’s suspicions about the identity of the driver were not dispelled until he exited the squad vehicle and approached [Fernandez’s] vehicle.” The court also found that when Officer Hullopeter “approached the vehicle and spoke with [Fernandez], he immediately” observed signs that Fernandez had been drinking, and that “these new observations were made at the same time that Hullopeter determined that the driver was not the registered owner.” 

The district court's findings of fact meant that the Defendant had no hope for winning on appeal. Or, as noted by the Appellate Court:

"Fernandez acknowledges that under Pike, the initial stop of the vehicle was valid because the vehicle was registered to an owner with an expired driver’s license. But Fernandez argues that because “Officer Hullopeter’s reasonable suspicion of criminal activity was based entirely upon his assumption that the registered owner... was the person driving the vehicle,” the reasonable suspicion justifying the stop was dispelled as soon as the officer “shined his squad spotlight on the car” and recognized that Fernandez was not a middle-aged woman. Fernandez argues that because Officer Hullopeter observed that the driver of the vehicle was not a middle-aged woman, his detention of Fernandez for the purpose of asking to see his driver’s license was unconstitutional."
"Officer Hullopeter’s suspicions that criminal activity was afoot were not dispelled until he “was in close proximity to the vehicle,” close enough to observe that the registered owner of the vehicle was not the driver, but also close enough to “immediately” observe that the driver had “bloodshot, watery eyes,” and “‘minty’ breath.” (Emphasis added.). Officer Hullopeter also observed “alcoholic beverage containers in plain view in the vehicle,” and that Fernandez was wearing wristbands of the type worn by “younger people at events or locations where alcohol is served.” These new observations occurred prior to Officer Hullopeter asking for Fernandez’s driver’s license and provided him with reasonable suspicion that Fernandez was driving under the influence of alcohok See State v. Klamar, 823 N.W.2d 687, 696 (Minn. App. 2012) (concluding that an officer’s observation of the odor of alcohol and bloodshot and watery eyes justified the expansion of a traffic stop to investigate a suspicion of impaired driving)."

Moral Of The Story:  If you have been drinking do not drive someone else's car as they may not be as responsible as you.

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.