Meaney & Patrin get another DWI case thrown out

Published On: January 23rd, 2017

Today a Hennepin County Judge threw out a DWI case because our client’s constitutional rights had been violated. Our client was charged with DWI after an officer in a dark unmarked SUV pulled up next to our client at an intersection with controlled traffic signals. The officer did not believe our client’s vehicle was up far enough to trigger the sensor of the traffic control light so he pulled up along side our client’s vehicle and asked her to roll down the window. The officer testified that our client had not violated any traffic laws. He told the judge that our client was “slow” to roll down her passenger window despite the fact it was the middle of the night and he was in a dark unmarked SUV. The officer told our client to move up and trigger the traffic control light. Our client said “okay.” The officer testified that our client slurred this two syllable word despite the fact the he was seated in his dark unmarked SUV and our client was in the driver’s seat of the car she was driving- in between both of them was a passenger in our client’s car. The officer then ordered our client to pull over to the side of the road and was ultimately arrested for DWI. The judge did not buy the officer’s basis for the stop and threw the case out. Just another day at the office for the DWI GUYS. Congratulations to our client!

Winning by Keeping It Simple: Recent DWI Victory with Blood Test Suppressed

Published On: April 18th, 2016

Some DWI attorneys will try to convince you that they have “winning” arguments to make in your case, but beware the attorney who may be enthusiastic about an argument they could easily lose if they don’t pursue it properly. You may have heard or read about the newest challenge going on in DWI cases, and the DWI Guys at Meaney & Patrin are battling on the front lines. Recently we received a favorable decision from a judge who suppressed our client’s blood test because the officer violated her right to due process when he told her that it would be a crime to refuse the test. Recent cases from the Minnesota Court of Appeals have held that the test refusal crime is unconstitutional in situations where a blood or urine test is requested without a search warrant. Even though those cases were decided after our client was arrested, we successfully argued that the decisions should apply to our case retroactively.

While many defense attorneys in Minnesota are making similar arguments, the way this issue is argued can make a big difference between winning and losing. Many of our colleagues argue that search warrants are required for blood and urine tests, and the failure of the officer to obtain a warrant is a violation of the 4th Amendment forbidding unreasonable searches. Others want to argue that the entire “implied consent” system is completely unconstitutional.

The problem with arguing the issues this way is that it opens the door for counterarguments that negate the constitutional violation. One counterargument is that the driver gave voluntary consent, meaning no warrant was needed. Another counterargument is that the officer acted in good faith that the law was correct when they told the driver that test refusal was a crime, so even though a warrant may have been required, the law will excuse the officer for acting in “good faith.”

Instead of falling into the trap of chasing a 4th Amendment violation, Meaney & Patrin uses those favorable Court of Appeals decisions to argue that the incorrect advice is a due process argument, regardless of whether a warrant was needed or consent was given. The “good faith” exception mentioned above does not apply to due process violations, so arguing the case this way nullifies both counterarguments that other attorneys may fall prey to. The decision we just received from a judge in Sherburne County specifically mentioned those counterarguments and how our way of arguing the issue nullified them. By keeping the argument simple and concise without throwing in the kitchen sink or declaring that the sky is falling, judges know that the argument has integrity.

When making the decision to hire an attorney, make sure you hire someone who is using the best possible strategy for success in your case. The DWI Guys team has over 35 years combined experience defending DWI cases in Minnesota, which is a crucial factor to consider. As demonstrated above, sometimes the best strategy includes leaving certain legal arguments behind.

Minnesota Court of Appeals: Warrant Needed for DWI Blood Test, Refusal to Test Without Warrant Not a Crime

Published On: October 17th, 2015

After years of challenges from defense attorneys in Minnesota, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has finally acknowledged that a search warrant was needed for a DWI blood test request, and the driver’s refusal to submit to that test in the absence of a warrant cannot be a criminal offense.  This decision is extremely important, but is limited in its scope.  First of all, the decision applies ONLY to blood tests directly.  The Minnesota Supreme Court held last year that a warrant was not needed for DWI breath test requests, which means the refusal to take a breath test can still be a crime.  (That decision is awaiting possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court.)  As for urine tests, that is an unanswered question at this point.

More than ever, it is critical that anyone who has been arrested for DWI seek legal advice prior to making the decision about taking the test for the officer.  The DWI Guys are available 24 hours, 7 days a week for free testing advice at 1-800-DWI-GUYS.  The law is drastically different depending on the type of test being asked for by the officer.  We suspect that officers will be instructed to offer breath tests only whenever possible, which they already do in the vast majority of cases.

This new decision also calls into question whether the current Implied Consent Advisory form violates due process by advising all drivers that “refusal to take a test is a crime.”  This Advisory must be read to a DWI offender before the officer requests an official alcohol concentration test at the police station/jail.  An argument can now be made that the Advisory gives bad advice to individuals who are eventually asked to take a blood test without the officer obtaining a search warrant first.  Again, this applies to a small percentage of DWI offenses because most officers request breath tests, but it is a step in the right direction when it comes to preserving individual rights.

Major Change to DWI Law in 2015 Results in Harsher Penalties for Many Offenders

Published On: October 17th, 2015

It seems like the Minnesota Legislature changes parts of the DWI laws every year that increase penalties on drunk drivers while making the process more easy for officer and courts to convict them.  One major change that took effect for offenses occurring on or after August 1, 2015 is creating harsher penalties than ever for many offenders, most notably first time offenders.

The change concerns the alcohol level needed to create an “aggravating factor” in the DWI offense, which was lowered from .20 to .16.  The change was made to reflect the original concept for this aggravating factor, which was set at .20 back when that was double the previous limit of .10.  The legal limit was lowered to .08 back in 2005, but the aggravating threshold remained at .20 until this year.

So what happens when a person reaches the “aggravating” threshold of .16?  First of all, the person must be held in custody until a judge sets bail and conditions of release, even if it’s a first-time offense.  Once a judge reviews the case, the law requires the person to only be released if they post the maximum allowed bail/bond of $12,000 or if they agree to participate in a daily electronic alcohol monitoring (EAM) program until their case is resolved.  The EAM program has a daily fee of $12-20 depending on the county, and the person is required to blow into a machine three times each day, seven days a week, to verify sobriety.

Second, the aggravating threshold will cause the DWI offense for first-time offenders to be bumped up to a gross misdemeanor level, which is a more serious level of criminal conviction to have on record if convicted.  Gross misdemeanors typically have longer probationary sentences (2-6 years compared to 1-2 years for misdemeanors), higher fines (mandatory minimum of $900 compared to $300 for misdemeanors), and more jail time stayed for probation violations that may occur (one year compared to 90 days for misdemeanors).

Third, the aggravating threshold can be used a second aggravating factor in combination with either a prior DWI within ten years or the presence of a child under 16 to cause the vehicle used for the offense to be forfeited to the state.  Many more cases have fallen into this category and allowed police to forfeit even more vehicles than they already had been.

With all of these increased penalties at a lower alcohol level than before, some may think that refusing the test is a better option.  However, the refusal to test already starts at an aggravated level similar to the way a test of .16 or more does.  There may still be benefits to certain individuals for refusing the test when it comes to the license revocation and license plate impoundment penalties, so it’s wise to consult with an attorney prior to making the decision about testing to determine the best course of action.  The DWI Guys are available for testing advice 24 hours a day, 7 days per week at 1-800-DWI-GUYS.