Monday, March 30, 2020

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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Smith (Decided March 30, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the Defendant's misconduct can waive his right to a speedy trial.

In Smith, the Defendant was arrested for DWI in Dakota County and found on his person was a small baggie of methamphetamine.  The state subsequently charged Mr. Smith with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, two counts of first-degree impaired driving, driving after revocation, and violation of a restricted driver’s license.

Mr. Smith appeared for a hearing on August 30, 2018 and demanded a speedy trial. During the hearing, Defendant stated that he would not “admit to jurisdiction” of the court and indicated that he filed an “assumed name certificate” and “filed a brief on declaration of sovereignty and immunity nationality status.” The district court noted Defendant's demand for a speedy trial and set a trial date for October 22, 2018.

On the day of trial, Mr. Smith continued to argue that the district court did not have jurisdiction. The judge repeatedly attempted to confirm that he wanted to proceed as a self-represented litigant, but Defendant refused to answer any questions and asserted that he did not recognize the district court’s jurisdiction. The district court judge continued, “I don’t think you quite grasp the gravity of the situation that [is] going on here,” and found appellant in direct contempt of court for repeatedly interrupting the judge and disrupting the courtroom. The district court continued the case until the following day.

The following day, the court attempted to continue the trial and the Defendant accused the judge of treason, threats, duress, and coercion.

The district court ordered evaluations under rule 20.04 which includes a competency evaluation under rule 20.01,  and set a review hearing for one week out. Mr. Smith argued that the continuance violated his speedy-trial demand and accused the judge of assault, kidnapping, and “ransom.”

The district court held review hearings on October 30, November 2, and November 9, 2018. Mr. Smith refused to appear at the November 9 hearing. The district court noted during the November 9 hearing that it was aware of appellant’s speedy-trial demand and wanted that demand to be “accommodated and honored.” However, the district court noted that the county was having difficulty completing the competency-evaluation report because Defendant refused to meet with the county evaluator. The county filed the evaluation report with the district court on November 16, stating that appellant was competent to stand trial.

The district court held a review hearing on November 20, 2018. Defendant refused to appear at the hearing. The district court noted that Mr. Smith was competent to stand trial and scheduled a jury trial for January 7, 2019.

Mr. Smith appeared for trial on January 7 and he challenged the district court’s jurisdiction. Defendant also indicated that he did not wish to remain in the courtroom during the trial, and left the room. 

After Mr. Smith was convicted by a jury he appealed arguing his right to a speedy trial was violated.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, however, noting:

"In Minnesota, “trial is to commence within 60 days from the date of the demand unless good cause is shown . . . why the defendant should not be brought to trial within that period.” State v. Hahn, 799 N.W.2d 25, 29-30 (Minn. App. 2011); see also Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.09(b) (requiring trial within 60 days of demand “unless the court finds good cause for a later trial date”)."
"Minnesota courts use a four-factor balancing test to determine whether a delay in a case violates the speedy-trial right. State v. Windish, 590 N.W.2d 311,315 (Minn. 1999). “The test provides that a court must consider: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) whether the defendant asserted his or her right to a speedy trial; and (4) whether the delay prejudiced the defendant.” Id. (citing Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S. Ct. 2182 (1972))."

Length of Delay:

"State v. Johnson, 811 N.W.2d 136, 144 (Minn. App. 2012) (“Under Minnesota law, a delay of more than 60 days from the date of the speedy-trial demand is presumptively prejudicial, triggering review of the remaining three factors.”)".

Reason for Delay:

"Under the second factor, “the key question is whether the government or the criminal defendant is more to blame for th[e] delay.” Taylor, 869 N.W.2d at 19 (quotation omitted). Generally, the burden of protecting speedy-trial rights rests on the court system and the prosecutors. Windish, 590 N.W.2d at 317. But “[w]hen the overall delay in bringing a case to trial is the result of the defendant’s actions, there is no speedy trial violation.” Taylor, 869 N.W.2d at 20."

"Here, the delays are largely attributable to appellant. On the scheduled trial date in October 2018, appellant interrupted the district court judge with such frequency that the district court was unable to conduct business. Appellant repeatedly refused to provide his name and challenged the jurisdiction of the district court. On the following day, the district court judge expressed concern over appellant’s “obstreperous and illogical behavior” and questioned “whether or not we need to conduct some sort of examination to determine [appellant’s] competence to proceed in connection with this matter.”

"Based on these concerns, the district court ordered a competency evaluation. Rule 20.01 directs a district court to suspend the proceedings and order an examination of a defendant’s mental condition if the district court has reason to doubt the defendant’s competency. Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 3. A delay caused by competency proceedings is normally justified as necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial. State v. Bauer, 299 N.W.2d 493, 498 (Minn. 1980). Here, the district court’s decision to order a competency evaluation was based on concerns that appellant’s cognitive abilities prevented him from participating in his trial. And if the court finds reason to doubt the defendant’s competence, it “must suspend the criminal proceedings.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 3 (emphasis added); see also Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 15a (2018) (providing that the word “must” is mandatory). The district court acted properly by delaying the trial to ensure that appellant was competent to proceed to trial."
"Appellant’s refusal to appear for scheduled hearings and cooperate with the county evaluator further contributed to the delay. Consequently, we conclude that this factor weighs against appellant’s speedy-trial-violation claim."

Assertion of Right:

"Because it is uncontested that appellant asserted his right to a speedy trial, this factor weighs in his favor."

Prejudice Caused by Delay:

"Prejudice . . . should be assessed in the light of the interests of defendants which the speedy trial right was designed to protect,” namely “(i) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration; (ii) to minimize anxiety and concern of the accused; and (iii) to limit the possibility that the defense will be impaired.” Id. at 532, 92 S. Ct. at 2193. “Of these forms of prejudice, the most serious is the last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system.” Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 654, 112 S. Ct. 2686, 2692 (1992) (quotation omitted). Prejudice is “obvious” if a witness dies or disappears during the delay, or if defense witnesses “are unable to recall accurately events of the distant past.” Barker, 407 U.S. at 532, 92 S. Ct. at2193. Prejudice is not present here. Appellant did not call any witnesses at trial, and he does not contend that anyone lost their memories, became unavailable, or forgot important events. The delay did not prejudice appellant’s case. Accordingly, we conclude that this factor does not weigh in appellant’s favor."

Balancing the Factors:

"On balance, we determine that good cause supported delaying the trial. Appellant asserted his right to a speedy trial, which began over 60 days from the date of his demand. However, the record reflects that the delay was largely attributable to appellant, and the delay did not impair appellant’s ability to present a defense. Therefore, based upon our complete review of all the Barker factors, we determine that the record does not establish a violation of appellant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial."

Moral Of The Story:  Justice delayed does not necessarily mean justice denied.

If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.

Monday, March 23, 2020

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. Kapus (Decided March 23, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the "totality of the circumstances" govern whether testing with a preliminary breath test is warranted.

In Kapus, Minnesota State Trooper Samuel Catlin found Jeffrey Lee Kapus sitting in his car in the ditch on the wrong side of a county road in Morrison County. It was -15 degrees Fahrenheit and windy that night, but the road was “clear,” “dry,” and “not difficult to travel.” Catlin noticed that Kapus’s speech was slurred, his left eye was watery,  and he began “swaying” on his feet in a “circular motion” as soon as he stepped out of his car. Catlin also noticed that Kapus had several unusual responses to his situation: he was very “laid back” about his car being in the ditch, which in Catlin’s experience is contrary to the typical driver responses of being either “upset” or “apologetic,” and he gave a slow and seemingly untruthful answer to Catlin’s question about where he was coming from that night—answering that he had gone to purchase gasoline for his car. From these circumstances, Catlin formed the belief that Kapus had been driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Because of the extreme weather, Catlin did not ask Kapus to perform any field sobriety tests, but he did ask Kapus to take a preliminary breath test (PBT), making the request less than a minute after he first approached Kapus.  Kapus agreed to testing and blew a .194 on the PBT.

Kapus was subsequently charged with 3rd Degree DWI and he moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing that there was insufficient evidence to justify the request for the preliminary breath test that formed the basis for the arrest. 

The District Court denied the motion to suppress and on appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court, stating:

"...a law enforcement officer may seize a stopped driver and “request a PBT if the officer possesses ‘specific and articulable facts’ that form a basis to believe that a person has been driving a motor vehicle while impaired.” Vondrachek v. Comm ’r of Pub. Safety, 906 N.W.2d 262, 268 (Minn. App. 2017) (quoting Dep’t. of Pub. Safety v. Juncewski, 308 N.W.2d 316, 321 (Minn. 1981)), review denied (Minn. Feb. 28, 2018)."

"“Reasonable suspicion must be based on specific, articulable facts that allow the officer to be able to articulate . . . that he or she had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the seized person of criminal activity.” State v. Morse, 878 N.W.2d 499, 502 (Minn. 2016) (alteration in original) (quotation omitted). The reasonable-suspicion standard is not high, and law enforcement officers may draw inferences that are based on the totality of circumstances, including those “that might well elude an untrained person."

"Kapus argues that Trooper Catlin did not observe any odor of alcohol on him before asking him to take a PBT and that other circumstances were insufficient to suggest that he had been drinking and driving. We disagree. Caselaw mandates that we consider the totality of all circumstances suggestive of Kapus’s alcohol consumption. See, e.g., Costillo v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 416 N.W.2d 730, 733 (Minn. 1987)"

"Here, the particular circumstances supporting Catlin’s suspicion that Kapus was driving under the influence of alcohol include that he was involved in a one-car accident where he crossed over an oncoming traffic lane to drive into the ditch on the opposite side of the road when the roadway was clear and dry; he swayed in a circular pattern that was unrelated to the wind when he left his vehicle; his speech was slurred and his eye was watery; and he behaved abnormally when talking about the accident and gave a pretextual reason for driving late at night when the weather was very cold. In addition, Catlin noted that there were several bars in the immediate vicinity."

"These circumstances were sufficiently suspicious to provide Catlin proper grounds for asking Kapus to perform a PBT. While Kapus suggests that Catlin should have asked him to complete field sobriety tests before asking him to take a PBT, the extreme weather was not conducive to doing so, and Kapus, on his own initiative, demonstrated some of the physical conduct that could have been established through field sobriety testing. Because Trooper Catlin reasonably suspected Kapus of criminal activity, he could ask Kapus to take a PBT. See Vondrachek, 906 N.W.2d at 268. We conclude that the district court did not err in declining to suppress the evidence recovered by Catlin."

Moral Of The Story: It's the vibe of the thing that counts.

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

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. Yemane (Decided March 16, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that a change in the law does not allow for a collateral attack upon a prior DWI conviction.

In Yemane, the Defendant was charged with a First Degree (felony) DWI because he managed to rack up 4 DWIs within a 10 year period. His attorney sought to challenge the use of his 2013 conviction to enhance the current offense to a felony arguing, the "2013 offense may not be used to enhance his present offense because, in March 2013, he was advised that refusal to submit to a blood test was a crime before submitting to the blood test on which his guilty plea was based and it was later determined that such refusals could not be prosecuted criminally without a warrant. See Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160, 2184 (2016); State v. Trahan, 886 N.W.2d 216, 219 (Minn. 2016)."

The district court overruled the challenge and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court, noting:

"...even though advising a defendant that refusing a warrantless blood test is a crime now precludes prosecution for driving with a particular alcohol concentration, “prosecution [may] still proceed for the general offense of driving while under the influence, based on other evidence of impairment.” State v. Schmidt, 712 N.W.2d 530, 539 (Minn. 2006). We agree with the district court’s conclusion that here, “there was ample other evidence to sustain a prosecution and conviction for driving while impaired under a different subdivision of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, even if the district court had suppressed the unconstitutional blood draw."

"Because collateral attacks of criminal convictions undermine the finality of judgments, they are allowed only in “unique cases.” State v. Warren, 419 N.W.2d 795, 798 (Minn. 1988), quoted in Schmidt, 712 N.W.2d at 538 n.4. A change in the law following a conviction is not a unique case. There is no basis to reverse the district court’s denial of appellant’s motion to exclude the March 2013 conviction."

Moral Of The Story: Be careful that your past does not come back to haunt you.

Monday, March 9, 2020

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 Jensen v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided March 6, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police can just make stuff up on the witness stand and if the district court buys it, the case will be affirmed.

In Jensen, a Pine County sheriff’s deputy was patrolling the area near Airport Road and Highway 61. The deputy was behind a vehicle driven by Sheila Laurel Jensen. As the deputy followed behind her, Jensen activated her left turn signal and slowed down as if to turn left onto Henriette Road but missed the turn and continued driving on Highway 61 for a short distance. Jensen then pulled off onto the right shoulder, crossed two lanes of traffic and made a U-tum. The deputy, who had maintained a distance of approximately three car lengths, testified he had to “tap [his] brakes and slow down to prevent a risk of getting into an accident” when Jensen made the U-tum. The deputy initiated a traffic stop, later identifying an “illegal U-tum” as the reason for the stop.  During the stop, the deputy noticed indicia of intoxication. Jensen took a breath test which revealed an alcohol concentration above 0.08. 

Ms. Jensen filed a challenge to the revocation of her license arguing the stop was illegal.  The deputy was the only witness at the license revocation hearing. Jensen argued that the deputy’s testimony about having to tap his brakes and slow his speed to avoid a collision must not be credited because, among other arguments, the deputy’s police report did not include this information. While the report, itself, was not admitted into evidence, the following portion of the report was read into the record by the deputy on cross-examination as follows: “[The vehicle] turned on its left blinker to turn onto Henriette Road. The vehicle missed the turn, and then pulled over to the right shoulder and made a U-tum in front of me. I pulled the vehicle over after it got onto Henriette Road.” The district court found the deputy’s testimony credible and sustained Jensen’s license revocation.

On appeal, Ms. Jensen argued that the district court committed clear error when it credited the officer’s testimony regarding the illegal nature of the U-tum that instigated the traffic stop. Jensen argues that the deputy’s testimony is not credible because his police report does not contain “one objective fact that supports” the assertion that she made an illegal U-tum. 

The Court of Appeals, however, notes: "The deputy’s testimony, however, was not in any way inconsistent with his report. There is also no requirement that, in order to justify a stop, police reports must contain the level of detail being sought by Jensen." (That's why I always lock in the officer on cross and make them explain they are trained to put everything that is "important" into their report. Then if the now "important" testimony is not in the report, it looks like they are making stuff up.)
"The deputy... testified that he needed to slow down in order to avoid a possible collision with Jensen’s vehicle while Jensen made the U-tum, and the district court found the deputy’s testimony to be credible. Jensen’s arguments to the contrary were raised and lost at the district court level. She has failed to show clear error on this appeal."
"Because credibility determinations are the province of the district court and there is sufficient evidence to support the court’s conclusions, the district court did not err in finding the deputy’s testimony credible and sustaining the revocation of Jensen’s driver’s license."

Moral Of The Story:  If there is a cop on your tail, do not turn around.

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

Monday, March 2, 2020

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 Paulson V. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided March 2, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that while a man's home is his castle, an open garage is not.

In Paulson, the police in Blue Earth County responded to a victim’s report of a hit- and-run collision involving Susan Mary Paulson. The victim followed a maroon vehicle to a garage at Paulson's residence and provided the police with a description of the vehicle and its license-plate number. Ms. Paulson sat in her car in her open garage for approximately two minutes before the police arrived. When Officer Reinbold arrived, he could clearly see her car and the inside of her garage from the street. Officer Reinbold approached the garage, stood near the back of Paulson's vehicle, began questioning her about the hit and run with the intent “to get the information for the other driver and facilitate that exchange between the two,” and stepped into the garage during the conversation that followed. 

Ms. Paulson admitted to officer Reinbold that she hit another car and drove away. During the conversation, officer Reinbold smelled alcohol and noticed her slow reactions and slurred speech. Ms. Paulson had parked too close to the vehicle next to her and could not open her door, so the officers helped her exit her vehicle. Officer Reinbold administered a field sobriety test inside the garage, which she failed. Both officers then escorted appellant to a squad car, where she requested a preliminary breath test, which resulted in a 0.261 alcohol concentration. The officers took appellant to the police station and read her the Minnesota Breath Test Advisory. Ms. Paulson waived her right to speak with an attorney and agreed to take the test, which resulted in a 0.26 alcohol concentration.

Ms. Paulson challenged the revocation of her license and the criminal charges alleging that the evidence of her intoxication resulted from an unconstitutional warrantless search of her garage because (1) she did not leave the garage impliedly open to use by the public and (2) even assuming the police had an implied license to enter the garage, they violated its purpose, time, and spatial limitations.

The District Court sustained the license revocation and held the evidence admissible. On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, noting:

"The United States and Minnesota constitutions prohibit police from entering constitutionally protected areas without a warrant, with limited exceptions. U.S. Const, amend. IV; Minn. Const, art. I, § 10; In re Welfare ofB.R.K., 658 N.W.2d 565, 578 (Minn. 2003). This constitutional protection extends to all places where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, including the home and its curtilage. See State v. Chute, 908 N.W.2d 578, 583 (Minn. 2018); B.R.K., 658 N.W.2d at 572. Garages adjoining the home fall within the definition of curtilage... To justify a warrantless entry into a home or its curtilage, the state must show either consent or probable cause and exigent circumstances, without which we must suppress the fruits of the search."

"If curtilage is “impliedly open” for public use, then police may enter it if they have legitimate business reasons. Crea, 233 N.W.2d at 739. In determining whether curtilage is impliedly open, courts analyze (1) whether the curtilage invites members of the public to seek and establish contact with a resident and (2) whether an objectively reasonable person would use that curtilage to do so. See Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 8 n.2, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1415-16 (2013); Chute, 908 N.W.2d at 586. Different areas of curtilage may meet these criteria based either on customary norms or the particular circumstances. See Jardines, 569 U.S. at 8, 133 S. Ct. at 1415 (noting that front-door knocker provides public with implied license to use front path to approach door and knock); Tracht v. Comm ’r of Pub. Safety, 592 N.W.2d 863, 865 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999) (implying that open garage provided public with implicit license to enter to knock on door within garage that led to home)."

"Here, appellant sat in her car in an open garage. Relying on Jardines and Tracht, we see no distinction between establishing contact by using the curtilage to knock on a door and establishing contact by approaching an open garage with appellant sitting in plain sight."

"Appellant appears to argue that sitting in her garage for two minutes did not render it impliedly open because she did not have enough time to close it before the police arrived. As an initial matter, the district court made a credibility determination that appellant had enough time to close the garage door, to which we defer. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (“[D]ue regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.”)."

"Moreover, curtilage does not become impliedly open when a person “briefly opens a door to enter.” Haase, 679 N.W.2d at 745, 747 (describing police following defendant into momentarily open garage and preventing door from closing by triggering sensor). In Haase, the resident revoked any implied license to enter the open garage by attempting to close the door soon after entering. Id. By contrast, from the moment police arrived, appellant sat in her open garage without making an effort to close the door and revoke the implied license. As a result, an objectively reasonable person would have believed the garage was impliedly open and continued that conversation inside the garage."

Moral Of The Story:  If it's privacy you want, shut the door.

If you or a loved one have been charged with 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 and DUI questions.