Out for Blood - Our Latest Jury Trial Victory

Posted On April 03, 2023 Charles Ramsay

Imagine having a few beers, waiting a few hours at a friend's house, and then getting pulled over by an officer for barely going over the speed limit. Instead of giving you a ticket and going on his way, the officer begins asking all kinds of questions. 

He starts asking intrusive questions like: 

“Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Have you had anything to drink?”

Not thinking anything of it, you mention that you are driving home from a friend's house after having a few beers hours earlier. 

The DWI wave starts to curl

Now the downward spiral begins. The officer gets excited. He’s on DWI detail and now has a possible arrest to be made. 

The officer should give you a minor speeding ticket and be on his way. But instead, he starts performing various pseudo-scientific tests, like asking you to follow a pencil with your eyes and stand on one leg.

The pseudo-scientific kicker

Finally, the officer asks you to blow into a breathalyzer (a preliminary breath test, or “PBT”) at the roadside. This is where the pseudoscience really goes off track. 

Because you have asthma, the officer allows you to take a few puffs of your inhaler prior to blowing into the breathalyzer. Unbeknownst to you, the medication that helps you breathe better is powered by an alcohol propellant that helps the medication get into your lungs (even powder inhalers may contain ethanol).

As you blow into the breathalyzer, that small amount of alcohol from the inhaler is multiplied by the blood-to-breath conversion factor of 2100. That small amount of alcohol propellant isn’t so small anymore. 

The PBT shows a 0.092. It’s a completely inaccurate number, of course, but the officer decided to escalate the stop to a DWI arrest.

The fact is, the roadside breathalyzer isn’t accurate enough to warrant an arrest. Even the Public Safety department's own rules say that roadside breathalyzers are only accurate to, “plus or minus 0.015 alcohol concentration.”  

Is this a true story?

Did the above story really happen? Yes. It happened to one of my clients (with some immaterial facts altered). 

And the story gets worse.

They want your blood

At the police station, my client asked to speak to an attorney. Instead, the officer said she could call a lawyer later, took her cell phone, and put her in a small holding cell with no phone, no toilet … nothing. He spent nearly 30 minutes getting a search warrant for blood. The officer returned and discussed with my client about it being a crime to refuse to test. My client said she would rather speak to a lawyer first. 

The officer decided to “deem” this a refusal -- a crime as bad as being double the legal limit. 

Shortly after “deeming” the refusal, he allowed my client to call a lawyer who advised her to take the test. She was likely lower than the legal limit. 

But the officer told her, “Too late.” 

He already charged my client with a crime as harsh as being double the legal limit. 

The officer could’ve allowed her to take the test at this point but arbitrarily chose not to. 

Not Guilty 🎉!

We recently tried this case in court, and the jury came back -- NOT GUILTY. 

Regular people can see the ridiculousness of the situation. What should’ve resulted in a minor speeding ticket, spiraled out of control into a full-blown arrest.

But we’ve got our work cut out for us. The State still wants to take her license away even though a jury has found her not guilty of a crime.

The MN attorney general's (AG) office demands that her license be revoked.

A reasonable AG’s office would drop the case, but in MN the AG’s office likes to play dirty when it comes to DWIs. 

We’ll continue to fight the case, but this time a judge decides – not a jury – and the state’s burden of proof is much lower. Instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the government need only prove this case by a preponderance of the evidence (“probably”). 

DWIs gone wild

Cases like this are the result of DWI laws that have gone unchecked. By continually lowering the legal alcohol limit over the years, police are incentivized to stop and question everyone.

Instead of focusing on the hardcore offenders, like those swerving in and out of lanes, officers now consider everyone a potential criminal -- even those who’ve only drank a few beers hours earlier. (Instructions read to a jury remind them, “It is not a crime to drink alcohol and then drive.”)

Seek counsel from someone you can trust

Lawyers are also called counselors for a reason. When you’ve been victimized by unfair or overzealous policing, you need to talk to someone you can trust. 

At Ramsay Law, we know the science and the law. We’ll guide you in the right direction. And, we believe we win more DWI cases than anyone else in Minnesota (although without every lawyer’s statistics, we cannot prove this – heck, we’ve stopped keeping our own statistics!).

Give us a call to analyze your case.

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Charles Ramsay