Minnesota's Complex DWI Laws: Daunting for the Dabbling DWI Lawyer

Posted On January 22, 2010 by Daniel Koewler

Minnesota's DWI law (Chapter 169A) consumes 186 pages on Westlaw. By comparison, the entire First Degree Murder law easily fits on a single page.

Without an attorney who has the experience, knowledge and skills in the field of DWI law, you run the serious risk of losing what otherwise should be a winning case. This is especially true when it comes to the some of the arcane and obscure rules that apply in the civil "Implied Consent| case that trails along with almost every criminal DWI case.

In the context of a criminal case, any attorney worth his or her salt should know that the government must prove that an allegedly intoxicated driver was either driving, operating, or in |physical control| of a motor vehicle.

What most attorneys don't know - probably because it isn't even listed in a Minnesota statute - is that the State is also required to prove that a person was driving, operating or in physical control of a vehicle in the civil Implied Consent case. This is an issue that can win cases, but first you have to recognize that the issue exists!

The civil implied consent law seems to limit the issues a driver may raise at the implied consent hearing. Note that none of the Implied Consent Statute does not permit a driver to challenge whether he or she was actually driving. Instead it permits a driver to challenge only whether the police officer had |probable cause.|

The scope of the hearing is limited to the issues in clauses (1) to (10):

(1) Did the peace officer have probable cause to believe the person was driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle or commercial motor vehicle in violation of section 169A.20 (driving while impaired)?

(2) Was the person lawfully placed under arrest for violation of section 169A.20?

(3) Was the person involved in a motor vehicle accident or collision resulting in property damage, personal injury, or death?

(4) Did the person refuse to take a screening test provided for by section 169A.41 (preliminary screening test)?

(5) If the screening test was administered, did the test indicate an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more?

(6) At the time of the request for the test, did the peace officer inform the person of the person's rights and the consequences of taking or refusing the test as required by section 169A.51, subdivision 2?

(7) Did the person refuse to permit the test?

(8) If a test was taken by a person driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle, did the test results indicate at the time of testing:

(i) an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more; or

(ii) the presence of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols?

(9) If a test was taken by a person driving, operating, or in physical control of a commercial motor vehicle, did the test results indicate an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at the time of testing?

(10) Was the testing method used valid and reliable and were the test results accurately evaluated?

Despite the statutory limitations to the contrary, drivers can and should challenge whether the state can prove they were driving when appropriate. Many attorneys miss this since the statute does not seem to permit it.

Too many attorneys give a passing glance to the maze of DWI statutes, shrug their shoulders, and decide to plea their clients and outright waive the right to a hearing. At Ramsay Results, we're always one step ahead, looking beyond the law to make sure that any issue that can be raised, will be raised. It's how we practice law - and it's how we get results.

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