Monday, March 29, 2021

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 Soucie v. Commissioner of Public Safety and State of Minnesota (Decided March 29, 2021, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published), which stands for the proposition that "touching" a fog or lane line provides the police with a legitimate reason to stop a motor vehicle.

In August 2019, a Minnesota State Trooper stopped Mr. Soucie's vehicle and subsequently arrested him for DWI. Mr. Soucie filed a challenge to the legality of the stop.  

At the combined Omnibus and Implied Consent hearing the trooper testified that she saw "the right. . . side of Soucie’s vehicle move completely over the fog line” and “occasionally touch the fog line." The video recording depicted Soucie’s passenger-side tires cross the fog line entirely at the end of the entrance ramp as the car merged onto the highway, corroborating the trooper’s testimony. But the transcript of the hearing and the order that followed demonstrated that the district court did not discuss that movement across the fog line. The district court instead focused on the moment the car’s tires later merely touched the fog line.

The District Court denied the Defendant's motion to suppress and sustained the license revocation. The issue on appeal was whether "touching" a highway line provides a sufficient justification to authorize a stop of a motor vehicle. 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the lower court noting:

The trooper "...stopped Soucie’s car because she believed he had violated a statute requiring drivers to operate only within their own lane. That statute mandates that 'a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.' Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. (1). We clarify that we are not deciding this appeal based on the trooper’s observation of Soucie’s passenger-side tires passing entirely over and beyond the fog line. Although the video recording corroborates the trooper’s testimony (as acknowledged by both attorneys during oral argument on appeal), the district court apparently did not notice this on its viewing. The state raised no related appeal challenging the district court’s factual omission as clear error, and neither party has briefed the question of whether an appellate court may hold a stop constitutional based on a violation that is unquestionably visible on a recording but that was apparently inadvertently missed by the district court. We therefore decide this appeal based on the factual findings of the district court, including specifically the finding that Soucie’s car (meaning his tires) touched the fog line. By 'touched,' it is clear from the district court’s description and our view of the recording that, only the outside edge of Soucie’s tires momentarily contacted the inside edge of the fog line."

"Soucie argues in essence that this touching is too insignificant to meet the statutory prohibition. We need only look to how we have construed the clear prohibition of section 169.18, subdivision 7(1), to reject this argument. In Kruse v. Commissioner of Public Safety, we held that driving with one’s outside tire completely on top of the fog line violates the statute. 906N.W.2d 554, 556 (Minn. App. 2018). The officer there had seen Kruse’s tire “move right and onto . . . but not over the fog line,” and we determined that this conduct violated the statute, justifying the traffic stop. Id. at 556, 560. The Kruse decision inspires inferences that we apply here."


"First, we infer that, under the statute, a lane is comprised of the area between the painted lines that demark it and does not include the lines themselves. To borrow from sports, a lane is like the area of play in basketball (where a player stepping on the boundary line is out of bounds) and unlike the area of play in tennis (where a ball landing on the boundary line is in bounds). Second, the statutory violation of moving a vehicle from the lane occurs when even a fraction of the vehicle extends outside its lane. The idea that one violates the statute by unsafely moving even part of one’s car from the lane arises not only from our holding in Kruse but also from a common-sense understanding of the danger the statute intends to avoid. It is self-evident that the statute aims to curb collisions with persons, obstacles, or vehicles outside of one’s lane, and dangerous collisions can occur when even a small portion of a car extends out of bounds. See Kruse, 906 N.W.2d at 559 (“Moreover, driving on the fog line could compromise the safety of any stopped motorist, pedestrian, or cyclist on the right side of the fog line.”); State v. Al-Naseer, 734N.W.2d 679, 681 (Minn. 2007) (“[A] car driven by Al-Naseer struck and killed a person who was changing a tire along the side of Highway 10.”). We can readily apply these premises to the facts here."


"Because operating a car with its tires touching the edge of the fog line constitutes moving a vehicle from the lane under Minnesota Statutes section 169.18, subdivision 7(1), the district court correctly concluded that [the] Trooper had reasonable suspicion to stop Soucie’s car for a traffic violation.

Moral Of The Story: If you are going to drive, stay in bounds.

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 15, 2021

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. Bonkowske (Decided March 15, 2021, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition that a person can only be convicted and sentenced for one DWI offense if all of the charges fall within the same statute and are a part of the "same behavioral incident".

In Bonkowske, the Defendant was arrested for DWI and taken to the police department.  The officers then read Bonkowske the breath-test advisory and after Bonkowske indicated that he wished to consult with an attorney, the officers provided him with access to a telephone and directories with the phone numbers of attorneys who handle DWI cases. Bonkowske briefly flipped through the directories but did not otherwise make any attempt to contact an attorney. The officers repeatedly informed Bonkowske that, if he was not going to attempt to contact an attorney, then they would continue with the breath-test-advisory process, but Bonkowske still made no attempt to contact an attorney. An officer then asked Bonkowske if he would consent to a breath test, and Bonkowske refused. When asked why he would not submit to a breath test, Bonkowske responded, ‘“cuz I don’t like you.”

The Defendant was charged with DWI, test refusal, and driving after suspension of his license. Bonkowske was appointed counsel, but later filed a petition to proceed pro se. The petition was granted following an omnibus hearing and Bonkowske represented himself at trial. A jury found Bonkowske guilty of all charges. The district court entered judgments of conviction and sentenced Bonkowske for each of the three offenses.

On appeal, the Defendant claimed the District Court committed reversible error by convicting and sentencing him for both DWI and DWI Refusal.  The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the District Court stating: 

"“Upon prosecution for a crime, the actor may be convicted of either the crime charged or an included offense, but not both.” Minn. Stat. § 609.04, subd. 1. The

Minnesota Supreme Court has interpreted Minn. Stat. § 609.04 (2018) to “bar[] multiple convictions under different sections of a criminal statute for acts committed during a single behavioral incident.” State v. Jackson, 363 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Minn. 1985). Whether a conviction violates section 609.04 is a legal question that this court reviews de novo. State v. Cox, 820 N.W.2d 540, 552 (Minn 2012)."


"In Jackson, the defendant was convicted of aggravated forgery and uttering a forged instrument under subdivisions one and three of Minn. Stat. § 609.625 (1982). 363 N.W.2d at 760. The supreme court ruled that, because the convictions were for offenses arising under different sections of the same statute and were committed as part of a single behavioral incident, the formal adjudication of the multiple convictions was in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.04, subd. 1. Id. The court therefore held that “one of the two formal adjudications of conviction for violating section 609.625 must be vacated.” Id. While the present case involves convictions for DWI and test refusal, instead of forgery and forged instruments, we nevertheless determine that Jackson is the controlling precedent and governs our analysis in this case."

"The Jackson rule consists of two parts: first, the convictions must be for offenses that arise under different sections of the same statute and, second, the offenses must have been committed as part of a single behavioral incident. Id. at 759-60. Here, the first part of the rule is satisfied because Bonkowske’s convictions for DWI and test refusal arise under different sections of the same criminal statute—Minn. Stat. § 169A.20."

"The second part of the rule, whether the offenses arose out of a single behavioral incident, is also satisfied. Within hours, Bonkowske drove from the bar to his house while intoxicated, was arrested and, while in custody, committed the offense of test refusal. The supreme court and numerous decisions of this court have held that DWI and test refusal committed as part of a continuous course of conduct, as occurred here, arise out of a single behavioral incident. See State v. Simon, 493 N.W.2d 528 (Minn. 1992) (mem.) (the offense of test refusal, committed after a DWI arrest and test-refusal advisory, is part of the same behavioral incident as the preceding DWI offense); accord State v. Olson, 887 N.W.2d 692, 701 (Minn App. 2016); State v. Fichtner, 867 N.W.2d 242, 246, 253-54 (Minn App. 2015), review denied (Minn. Sept. 29, 2015); St. John, 847 N.W.2d at 708."

"Consequently, pursuant to Jackson, the entry of judgments of conviction for the two offenses violates Minn. Stat. § 609.04 and one of the convictions must be vacated. See State v. LaTourelle, 343 N.W.2d 277, 284 (Minn. 1984) (stating “the proper procedure to be followed by the trial court when the defendant is convicted on more than one charge for the same act is for the court to adjudicate formally and impose sentence on one count only,” retaining the guilty verdicts on the remaining charges, but not formally adjudicating those charges)."

I am surprised that the District Court made this mistake as the issue has been settled since State v. Simon in 1992.  I hope this published opinion will prevent future errors.

Moral Of The Story: Keep your crime sprees to a single offense and behavioral incident.

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 1, 2021

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. Urratia, (Decided March 1, 2021, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that some appeals are just a big waste of time.

In Urratia, the Defendant was arrested and convicted of DWI. On appeal, he argued the district court committed reversible error when it failed to suppress the evidence of his crime as the arresting officer used excessive force in making the arrest.

In February 2019, a Beltrami County Deputy Sheriff was patrolling a rural area late at one night when he observed a car with a loud exhaust passing him in the opposite direction. The deputy turned his squad car around, intending to initiate a traffic stop. But the loud car stopped in the middle of the road, backed up, and pulled into a driveway. The deputy positioned his squad car in the driveway behind it.

The deputy began approaching on foot and the driver then suddenly left the car. The deputy—alone and surprised—drew his handgun and ordered the driver to the ground. He holstered his gun when he was satisfied that the driver, Jesse Urrutia, was unarmed.

During oral argument on appeal, "his counsel explained that Urrutia is challenging the level of force the sergeant used, but he does not assert that the deputy’s conduct constituted a de facto, unconstitutional arrest." 

(Why Not?)

The Court of Appeals rejected the Defendant's claim noting that the exclusionary rule applies to 4th Amendment violations not excessive force claims:

"As one federal court accurately put it, “[T]here has been no appellate decision holding that the exclusionary rule can serve as a remedy for excessive force collateral to a search or seizure.” United States v. Collins, 714 F.3d 540, 544 (7th Cir. 2013). Urrutia has cited no Minnesota or federal case holding that a seizure that is unconstitutionally excessive in force precipitates the suppression of evidence collected during the seizure and unrelated to the force. It is unlikely that such a case exists, since the exclusionary rule generally justifies suppression of evidence discovered or collected because of a Fourth Amendment violation, United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 347, 94 S. Ct. 613, 619 (1974), not evidence that is collected with no causal relation to an alleged Fourth Amendment violation. We doubt that the sergeant’s conduct here was excessive under the circumstances of Urrutia’s suspicious behavior in the secluded driveway, but because the appeal would fail anyway, we need not consider the assertion."

I do not understand why appellate counsel did not raise the claim of an unconstitutional arrest.  In State v. Carver, 577 N.W.2d 245 (Minn.App. 1998) the Minnesota Court of Appeals held the Defendant was illegally arrested for DWI where he was ordered to the ground and handcuffed before the police developed probable cause.  

At least the Defendant in this case would have had an argument.

Moral Of The Story:  The exclusionary rule does not apply to everything.

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.