Tuesday, May 26, 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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Moore (Decided May 26, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that a prior license revocation notation on a driving record is not sufficient proof of a prior offense for enhancement purposes.

In Moore, the Defendant was arrested and charged with a Felony DWI because at the time of the current offense, she had two prior DWI convictions from 2011 and, according to a certified copy of the Defendant's driving record, a loss of license in 2009 for impaired driving.  The Defendant waived a jury trial and argued that her driving record was insufficient to establish a prior impaired driving incident. The District Court found Ms. Moore guilty of felony DWI but on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court explaining:

"A person is guilty of first-degree DWI if they commit that violation within ten years of the first of three or more qualified prior impaired-driving incidents. Minn. Stat. § 169A.24, subd. 1(1). A “[qualified prior impaired driving incident includes prior impaired driving convictions and prior impaired driving-related losses of license.” Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 22 (2016). A “[p]rior impaired driving-related loss of license includes a driver’s license suspension, revocation, cancellation, denial, or disqualification.” Id., subd. 21(a) (2016). An implied-consent license revocation “becomes effective” when an officer notifies the person of the revocation and advises the person of the right to administrative or judicial review.  Minn. Stat. § 169A.52, subd. 6."

"Because a revocation does not “become effective” without notice, in order to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of an offense that requires a prior license revocation, the state has the burden of proving that appellant received notice of that revocation. See State v. Burg, 648 N.W.2d 673, 677-78 (Minn. 2002) (“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ‘protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which [the accused] is charged.’”) (quoting In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 1073 (1970)) (alteration in original). Moreover, we note that, in previous license-revocation cases disputing notice, the state has provided either testimony regarding notice or evidence that it provided notice to the defendant. See, e.g.. Gray v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 918 N.W.2d 220, 225 (Minn. App. 2018) (identifying officer testimony that he personally provided notice); Johnson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 889 N.W.2d 36, 37, 40 (Minn. App. 2016) (identifying officer testimony that he thought he placed notice in appellant’s property); Johnson v. Comm ’r of Pub. Safety, 394 N.W.2d 867, 868 (Minn. App. 1986) (identifying officer testimony that he placed order of revocation in front of appellant)."
"Here, the district court concluded that “the [s]tate has prove[d] beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of this offense” and that the certified copy of the driving-record history established a qualified prior impaired-driving incident. The district court relied on Omwega to reject appellant’s argument that the state had to prove notice. State v. Omwega, 769 N.W.2d 291, 296 (Minn. App. 2009) (noting officer properly placed notice in appellant’s bag with his other property when released from custody), review denied (Minn. Sept. 29,2009). First, as discussed above, the state has the burden of proving notice. Burg, 648 N.W.2d at 677-78. Second, Omwega is distinguishable because there, the state presented evidence that the police provided the appellant with notice. Omwega, 769 N.W.2d at 296. There is no such evidence here, and without it, we cannot make the reasonable inference that she received this notice. See Chambers, 589 N.W.2d at 477. Nor does appellant’s certified driving-record history allow for a reasonable inference that she received notice. The only inference the statute allows is that, if the police mailed the notice, appellant received it three days later. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.52, subd. 6."

As stated by the court, "...appellant’s certified driving record may prove the occurrence of a license revocation, but it does not prove that she received notice of that revocation. The state contends that the driving-record notation of “notice re requirements sent” constituted proof that the state provided appellant notice of the license revocation. But the state offers no testimony that the notation referred to the revocation, and the district court made no finding on it. Nor does the certified driving record contain any explanation of its headings, terminology, or abbreviations."

Moral Of The Story:  A prior isn't a prior without proof of notice.

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.

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