Finding A Qualified DWI Defense Attorney In Minnesota

When you (or someone you know) is facing a DWI charge, it can feel like your whole life just came to a screeching halt. All your life's plans, hopes, worries, and expectations suddenly take a backseat to this new, lurking monster that suddenly took the wheel in your life and is hell-bent on driving you off the road.

Will you go to jail? What will happen to your insurance rates? What are the consequences of a criminal conviction? What will happen when I go to Court? How will I drive to work without a license? What will my children think of me? How do I look at myself in the mirror after something like this?

Some of these thoughts (hopefully not all) run through the minds of everyone who is arrested under suspicion of driving while impaired. And all of them are very, very good reasons to hire a defense attorney to help you navigate your way through the mess of a criminal case and the major disruption that comes from losing your license. 

That's why we're here -- at Ramsay Law Firm we've dedicated our careers to helping people who are charged with DWIs. And with that dedication has come many, many awards: Dan Koewler regularly makes the Super Lawyers Rising Stars List, while Charles Ramsay achieved the prestigious "ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist" designation from the American Chemical Society (the only attorney in Minnesota to do so). Charles was also designated as "Attorney of the Year" by Minnesota Lawyer back in 2011 for his work in combating Minnesota's old breath test machine.

History tends to repeat itself; old success leads to new success. That's why I'm happy to announce that both Charles Ramsay and Dan Koewler were just selected as 2016 Attorneys of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer, alongside other well-respected attorneys such as Ron Rosenbaum and Joe Friedberg. As this is Charles' second time being selected as Attorney of the Year, this also means he is now at the incredibly rare "Circle of Excellence" level for Minnesota lawyers. 

Congratulations to every attorney that was selected (we're including each of their names below). At Ramsay Law Firm, we're already looking forward to helping even more clients and winning more cases in 2017.

Beating Minnesota DWIs: The Physical Inability Defense

There are some things each of us simply cannot do.  We all know the famous saying:  I just can't do it, Captain, I don't have the power!

All joking aside, the issue of physical inability is a serious topic in DWI cases.  When someone is arrested for DWI and asked to give a breath test, the testing machine (DMT) requires 1.5 Liters of air at a flow rate of at least 3.0 Liters per minute.  To help picture this, think of a 2 Liter bottle of cola.  The amount of air required fills 75% of that bottle.  Now, most of us can physically provide this much air (albeit with some difficulty); however, some have physical limitations that make providing this amount of air very difficult and potentially even dangerous.  The problem is that when these circumstances have arisen, many officers are blindly charging drivers with test refusals, claiming the driver refused the test by their conduct (gaming the test).  

These charges completely ignore the driver's physical inability and can be defeated.  Just last week we got our client her license back because we convinced a judge that she did not refuse the test, but instead was physically unable to give enough air. The facts are fairly straight-forward: our client continually attempted to give breath samples but the DMT read each sample as "deficient," meaning not enough air was provided.  Based on this, the officer charged our client with DWI refusal even though he was aware our client had a long history of lung issues.

This was simply not right.  We challenged the taking of the license and took the case to court.  We provided the judge with our client's medical records that showed her lung capacity is much less than the national average.  In fact, her spirometry test showed her lungs could only hold about 1.5 Liters of air.  Knowing this fact, the BCA's forensic scientist even admitted that if our client had provided the required 1.5 Liters of air her lungs may have collapsed.  We also showed the judge that each breath sample was the exact same amount of air making it unlikely that our client was gaming the DMT; it would be virtually impossible to intentionally give the exact same amount of air with each breath unless that was all the air her lungs could expel.

The state's main rebuttal came from the police officer who said it appeared to him that our client purposefully blew around the mouthpiece, so she must have been tampering with the test.  

The judge was not convinced in light of the evidence and ruled in our favor, stating: "the consistencies throughout these two tests does not suggest [our client] manipulated the test as asserted by the officer, but instead made a good-faith effort to complete the DMT."   Because an alternative test was not offered, our client was given her license back and we are now in the process of defending the criminal case where we will assert the same defense.

The physical inability defense needs to be well understood in the defense community.  In the last few months we have been successful on two of these cases thanks to developing strong supporting evidence.  We know there are more cases like this out there and they need to be challenged as well.

 

Working With The Best DWI Lawyers In Minnesota: My Thanksgiving Gratitude

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, it is nice to take a moment to think about what you are thankful for.  Like many, I am thankful for family, friends, and my health.  But there is another thing I am thankful for that is unique to me: I am thankful to be working with the best DWI lawyers in Minnesota.  This is not a shot at any of the other great lawyers in the state, but in my mind Chuck Ramsay and Dan Koewler have the best track record for defeating DWIs and helping their clients get their lives back on track.

You see, in February of this year I met Chuck and after a few meetings it was made clear the firm was interested in adding me to the team.  The thought of joining Chuck and Dan was exciting; I knew I would be joining the best DWI lawyers in the state and I would learn a lot.  Still, it was a difficult decision.  I had a comfortable job and taking the position was a big change for me and my wife.  After taking weeks to consider my options I decided to go for it and I took the position.  Call me melodramatic, but I am very thankful that I did so.

Since I joined the firm, we have successfully argued at the Minnesota Supreme Court and defeated all DWI blood and urine test refusals.  This decision has greatly affected hundreds of other DWIs that are still being litigated.  We (okay, Dan) wrote an Amicus Brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Bernard case.  We also won a published opinion in the Court of Appeals that now allows drivers to challenge test results at the 0.16 level, which would result in license plate impoundment and longer driver's license revocations.

Using what I have learned I, myself, have argued three cases at the Court of Appeals.  The first decision was a victory for us and the two still yet to be decided are expected to have similar results.  Additionally, we have defeated countless DWIs.  The creative defenses used have ranged from improper observation periods to physical inability.  But our most notable defense, the one Chuck and Dan developed in Minnesota, are the scientific challenges to breath tests.

Chuck and Dan have spearheaded the issue of invalid breath tests results.  They pushed the BCA to provide measurement uncertainty range with breath test results, instead of assuming their measurements were 100% correct (which everyone knew they weren't).  After a few victories, the BCA cried uncle and provided the measurement uncertainty. I strongly suspect many attorneys would have stopped there, but not Chuck and Dan.  We continued to dig deeper until we found where the BCA was still masking the deficiencies of their tests.  Using this we fought more and more cases and received more victories for our clients because their test results over .08 did not show they were actually over .08.

But this firm is not defined just by our victories, we also pride ourselves on taking care of our clients --not just their case, but the client as a person.  We understand the penalties the state places on DWIs make it hard to simply live day-to-day.  Therefore, all of our strategies are focused on getting our client's lives back on track as soon as possible.  One poor decision should not define anyone.

Chuck and Dan also are very giving with their time.  Not only am I able to bug them anytime with questions or ideas, but they use their personal time to meet with and teach other defense attorneys the issues they have developed.  Whether it is teaching a CLE or a private meeting, they are willing to help others in our profession.  And, in my opinion, this willingness to help others without any personal gain in return, shows their true character.  I am proud to work with both of these guys.

So that is what I am thankful for.  I hope you have much to be thankful in your life as well.  

Have a happy Thanksgiving and please remember that tonight is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars: plan a sober ride and stay safe!!

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Another One Bites The Dust: Victory At the Court of Appeals ... Again

We have just received another victory at the Court of Appeals today.  Once again, the Court made it crystal clear that when an officer threatens a driver with an unconstitutional crime, the driver's due process rights have been violated.  Sounds familiar, right?  We have blogged about this issue extensively, and we still have two more cases to be decided by the Court of Appeals that deal with this very same issue.

As we said Friday, these cases are not completely resolved, as the underlying legal question will soon be heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court.  Nevertheless, today's decision provides confirmation that law enforcement cannot use unconstitutional threats to get drivers to submit to testing and that Minnesota Courts will abide by this principle.  

This has been an eventful week here at Ramsay Law Firm.  Not only have we won a big case at the Court of Appeals, we have also secured victories in 4 of our clients' cases.  On Wednesday -- just before the turkey goes in the fryer -- we will blog about our 4th victory and discuss the underutilized defense we employed in that case.

Stay tuned ....

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Another DWI Dismissed: Due Process Is Front And Center Before The Minnesota Supreme Court

We have blogged extensively about the ongoing due process issue working its way throughout he court system.  In sum, we believe that telling drivers that "refusal to take a test is a crime" when that is actually a complete lie is unconstitutional. And that's not just our opinion -- many other judges agree. That includes judges on our Court of Appeals, the judge in another one of our recent wins . . . and, maybe, a majority of the justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

First, the Court of Appeals: In the Johnson case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals recently decided this issue, holding that lying to drivers about being charged with an unconstitutional crime is a violation of their due process rights. This was a big deal for a variety of reasons, the least of which was that it directly contradicted several prior decisions. But all in all, it was a resounding victory for the constitution.

Second (and before the ink was even dry on the Johnson case) we got another DWI dismissed for one of our clients, and for the same basic reason: the judge held that not only was the unconstitutional threat a violation of our client's due process, the threat also coerced him and also violated his Fourth Amendment rights. You can read a redacted version of that order here.

While this recent decision from the Court of Appeals (and another one of our local court victories) is fantastic news for those who care about the Constitution, the final issue is far from decided. In fact, on the heels of the Johnson case, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided to settle the issue once and for all. What we know now is that hundreds of DWI convictions and license revocations are hanging in the balance . . . while the future of how our Courts interpret the protections of the Due Process clause is also at stake. 

In the meantime, we'll continue doing what we do best -- getting results for our clients while keeping everyone else informed about the latest developments in DWI law. 

 

 

 

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Continuing DWI Successes: Judge Throws Out Biased Breath Test Result

Here at Ramsay Law Firm, we've been leading the charge against unscientific DWI evidence. For the last year, we've had our sights set on DWI breath tests in Minnesota, and have been having continual success getting back our clients' drivers licenses and beating their DWI charges.

The war over unscientific breath test evidence has shifted over the last year with each new success -- sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. But the basics have never changed, and at its heart, our fight has always been about keeping junk science out of the courtroom and emphasizing the need for high-quality evidence in every case.

We recently obtained another order that perfectly described one of our challenges to breath testing -- the fact that every breath test machine in Minnesota is "biased" in one way or another. Although calling a machine "biased" sounds alarming, it's really not anything terrible . . . but if, and only if, the government admits that the machine is biased and tells us how much the bias affects the final test results. Here's a handy graphic worth at least 1,000 words that does a good job of visualizing how "bias" will affect a measurement.

Currently, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension doesn't admit how biased their breath test machines are. Instead, they hide how badly each breath test is compromised by bias, while attempting to minimize how badly they are misstating the effects of bias on a breath test. 

Here is one example of an order where I convinced a judge that Minnesota's breath testing scheme is currently too biased to allow the government to revoke my client's drivers license. It's a great order, and the logic behind this victory applies to any DWI breath test case that is close to one of the relevant legal limits (0.04, 0.08, or 0.16). When discussing the misleading manner that the government uses to hide the bias in breath test cases, the judge noted:

But that's not the best quote from the Order -- read on:

Exactly right. 

Too many people (including way to many defense attorneys) just assume that if a breath test result says they were over a 0.08, it must mean that they were actually over 0.08. That statement could not be further from the truth . . . and we're proving it, on behalf of our clients, time and time again. 

 

Victory At The Court of Appeals: Many Blood and Urine Cases Violate Due Process

The Minnesota Court of Appeals released an opinion this morning that will affect many blood and urine DWI cases. The court's holding states that it is a violation of a driver's due process rights if they are told refusal to take a blood or urine test is a crime--as those crimes have been held to be unconstitutional.  Due to the  violation, the driver was given his license back.

While this result seems to come down to common sense, and frankly it really does, the State of Minnesota's argument was that the threat of a criminal charge was made before the refusal laws were found to be unconstitutional. Essentially, they are saying "it was true at the time it was read."  However, as we blogged about multiple times,  the underlying rulings are retroactive, meaning they apply to cases that occurred before the decisions were made; it is as if the refusal laws were never on the books. 

In making its decision today, the Court of Appeals correctly applied this well-understood principle.  Minnesota's refusal crimes for blood and urine cases are unconstitutional, and therefore, were always unconstitutional, and telling a driver otherwise, violated due process.  Here is the full opinion if you would like to read it.

Today's decision is published, meaning it can be cited as authority.  We have three additional cases to be decided on this issue and will provide updates as those come in.

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Science As Your Best Defense: Landing the Right Attorney To Defend Your DWI

Nobody wants to be arrested for a DWI. In my experience, very few people ever set out for the evening saying, "let's roll the dice and see if we can get away with driving while impaired tonight." The few folks that do say or think something like that probably have their particular defense attorney on speed dial, but for the majority of Minnesotans, the fact remains that getting arrested for DWI is usually a shock, and after it happens, the shocks just keep coming.

People proactively hire an estate law attorney when they want to provide for their family's future. People proactively hire a patent attorney when they want to protect a new invention. People hire a business law attorney when they want to take a new idea and turn it into a (hopefully successful) business.

But nobody proactively hires a DWI defense attorney. Shortly after being arrested for DWI comes the scramble -- the scramble to get out of jail, to get back to work, to deal with the shame, to deal with the impact losing your license or your car can have on your family . . . and the scramble to find a defense attorney.

A good DWI defense attorney helps with all of those other situations, but finding a good one is the type of "scramble" that requires a lot of extra care. There are a lot of attorneys out there who are happy to take as much of a person's money as they think they can get away with, while also having every intention of putting as little effort as possible into the case. We call 'em "dump truck" attorneys in Minnesota, or "meet 'em, greet 'em, and plead 'em" attorneys.

All of this was just a roundabout way of asking the rhetorical question, "what makes for a good DWI defense attorney?" I can't answer that question completely in this post, but I can make one good start -- a good DWI defense attorney is one who is repeatedly asked to educate other defense attorneys on how to be better defense attorneys. 

Enter Chuck Ramsay, founding partner of Ramsay Law Firm. He's got a long list of credentials; today's post is just to highlight that he is once again taking up his role as faculty for the National College of DUI Defense, and spending his weekend teaching at the multi-day "Science As Your Best Defense" seminar alongside all of the other big names in DWI defense (if you're keeping track, you'll notice that he's the only attorney from Minnesota to carry such an honor). 

If you've been arrested for a DWI in Minnesota, there is one tiny bit of good news amidst the scramble to put your life back in order: you got arrested in the one state that Charles Ramsay continues to practice DWI defense, day-in and day-out. Give him a call. 

Beating Old Urine and Blood DWIs: Let's Get Retro!

We previously blogged about retroactive application of constitutional rulings.  The lesson was simple: when a law is struck down as unconstitutional, it was always unconstitutional; it is as if the law was never on the books.

Over the past few weeks we have argued this issue at the Minnesota Court of Appeals multiple times.  The state has consistently argued that the recent decisions in Birchfield/Bernard, Thompson, and Trahan should not be applied to cases that arose before those decisions were issued.  So, in their mind, when a driver is threatened with a crime for refusing a blood or urine test, it makes no difference if the threatened crime is later ruled unconstitutional. They say "it was true at the time, no harm no foul."

First, there is a clear harm when law enforcement threatens drivers with an unconstitutional crime.  And second, the threat was never true because the crime was always unconstitutional. 

The United State Supreme Court has identified two different types of constitutional rulings: procedural and substantive.  Procedural rules are designed to ensure accuracy of convictions.  An example of a procedural rule would be the Friedman right to counsel.  These rules do not necessarily go back in time to cases arising prior to the decision--as in Friedman, where the holding was limited to the cases still on direct appeal and not cases that were already decided.

Substantive rules, on the other hand, are rules that change what conduct can be criminalized, and these rulings must be given complete retroactive application.   Like we said before: it is as if the law never existed.  Birchfield, Thompson, and Trahan explicitly prevent states from criminalizing the conduct of refusing blood or urine tests.  These are clearly substantive rules.  

So, if any defense attorneys run into this issue they should not be misled by a prosecutor or Attorney General telling them there is no constitutional violation because the misleading advisory was "true at the time it was read."  No. It was never constitutional, so it was never true.

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Can You Now Have Your Prior DWI Refusal Conviction Removed

 

This week our firm scored a major victory when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in our favor in the Thompson case.  It is now settled that Minnesota cannot criminally charge a driver for refusing a urine or blood test.  One of our attorneys, Daniel Koewler, who actually argued the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, recently spoke with local media outlets about the decision and its future impact on DWIs in the state.  

The bottom line is that while the issue of urine and blood test refusals has been put to bed, a new issue has now surfaced: the questionable validity of previous DWI convictions based on refusing a urine or blood test.  If the refusal law is unconstitutional how can these previous convictions stand?  

This new challenge to old convictions will depend heavily on the retroactive effect of constitutional rulings.  As we pointed out in our previous blog post, when a law is ruled unconstitutional, it is as if the law never existed.  

Obviously, any DWI conviction on someone’s record is bad, and now we have a way to go back and attack any conviction based on the unconstitutional law.

If you have been convicted of DWI for refusing a blood or urine test call Ramsay Law Firm to discuss your options.