Monday, June 29, 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The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Ekiyor (Decided June 29, 2020, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that a Defendant has no right to present an involuntary intoxication defense when the Defendant voluntarily ingested the drugs in question.

In Ekiyor, the Defendant was arrested for Felony DWI and during the booking process, he submitted to a partial breath test indicating his alcohol concentration level was .20%.  The Defendant also stated he had taken zolpidem (Ambien) as prescribed the previous evening.  Ekiyor further stated that he had been involved in a similar incident two months earlier; he woke up in the hospital after taking zolpidem, blacking out, and driving a vehicle. Ekiyor stated that the previous incident resulted in reckless-driving charges.

Prior to trial, Ekiyor sought to raise the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication or temporary insanity due to his ingestion of zolpidem and moved to admit expert testimony about the drug’s side effects. In support of his motion, Ekiyor submitted a report in which a forensic toxicologist opined that the ingestion of zolpidem can result in serious side effects—including sleep-driving—and that Ekiyor exhibited symptoms of intoxication due to zolpidem impairment. Ekiyor claimed that he could not present a complete defense if the jury was not provided with information about the side effects of zolpidem, which demonstrated that he lacked the general intent to drink and drive.

The district court denied Ekiyor’s motion to allow the forensic toxicologist to testify as an expert about the effects of zolpidem, concluding that the defenses of voluntary and involuntary intoxication were inapplicable to the case.

On Appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, stating:

"We determine that Ekiyor’s argument that the district court erred by denying the expert’s testimony about the effects of zolpidem is misplaced given that the defense that he sought to raise—intoxication due to the ingestion of zolpidem—was unavailable to him."

"Ekiyor was charged with DWI and driving while under the influence of a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance. These are general-intent offenses because “[a]n unlawful intention or state of mind is not an element of a D.W.I. charge.” State v. Duemke, 352 N.W.2d 427, 430 (Minn. App. 1984). And the defense of voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a general-intent offense. See City of Minneapolis v. Altimus, 238 N.W.2d 851, 854-55 (Minn. 1976) (noting that voluntary intoxication is a defense only if a specific intent or purpose is an element of the charged offense); see also State v. Martin, 591 N.W.2d 481, 486 (Minn. 1999) (noting that claim of temporary insanity caused by voluntary intoxication due to defendant’s use of alcohol or drugs not available as a defense). Further, the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication was also unavailable to Ekiyor. See Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.46, subd. 2 (recognizing affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication available only to rebut a charge of driving while under the influence of a Schedule I or II controlled substance); 152.02, subd. 5(c)(52) (classifying zolpidem as a Schedule IV controlled substance) (2016)."

"Finally, even if the defense of involuntary intoxication had been available to Ekiyor, he would have been unable to make the required showing necessary to raise this defense. As outlined in Altimus, the defense of involuntary intoxication is available only when: (1) “the defendant must not know, or have reason to know, that the prescribed drug is likely to have an intoxicating effect”; (2) “the prescribed drug, and not some other intoxicant, is in fact the cause of defendant’s intoxication at the time of his alleged criminal conduct”; and (3) “the defendant, due to involuntary intoxication, is temporarily insane.” 238 N.W.2d at 857."

"Here, there was evidence that the label of Ekiyor’s zolpidem prescription warned about its intoxicating effects and to avoid driving after taking it. Ekiyor also testified about a prior incident when he drove after ingesting a combination of zolpidem and Vicodin. And, finally, it is unlikely that Ekiyor would have been able to prove that zolpidem was the sole cause of his impaired driving given that there was evidence of alcohol in his system.
Because we determine that the defense of zolpidem intoxication was unavailable to Ekiyor, he was not denied his right to present a complete defense. Therefore, the district court did not err by excluding the expert’s testimony on the basis that it would not be helpful to the jury."

Moral Of The Story: Don't sleep and drive!

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.

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