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.
But that's not the best quote from the Order -- read on:
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.
If you ever watched the American version of The Office, your poor brain is probably overloaded with funny and memorable quotes from the office manager, Michael Scott. One in particular stands out in my mind, the one memorialized by the picture leading this blog post.
This week, the Court of Appeals issued a decision worth highlighting, even though it is only slightly related to DWI law. The decision itself was pretty straightforward in a legal sense; the majority (2 judges from the 3 judge panel) upheld the district court's decision to send a guy to prison for violating the conditions of his probation.
One judge dissented, and he led his dissent with a quote from Charles Dickens that cuts right to the heart of why this case was so troubling.
"Dollars! All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down into dollars . . . . Men were weighted by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars."
-Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary
Chief Judge Cleary's dissent is this case struck an open nerve; the case itself (you can read it here if you'd like) ultimately resulted in a man being sent to prison for years, for no other reason than the fact that he is homeless and unemployed. You see, Mr. Brown needed to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get into a treatment program, and would then have to pay $42 for each treatment session. That's a tall order for someone without a permanent address, or employment.
Mr. Brown's probation officer recommended he try selling plasma to come up with some extra funds, or risk being sent back to prison. One judge noted that while Mr. Brown had "good intentions" that his failure to "come up with a way to get some minimal money to do what he needed to do" indicated an inexcusable inability to "act on those intentions."
We see this frequently in the criminal justice system; offenders who need treatment (for sexual offense, or for addiction, or for anger management issues) who are instead shoveled into the prison system because, for some difficult-to-understand reason, we'd rather spend money building prisons than treating the underlying problem. And while even the richest of people can suffer from addiction, and need treatment far more than they need to add to our ever-bloating rank of prisoners, the simple fact is that diseases like addiction hit the homeless, the mentally ill, and the unemployed the hardest.
Mr. Brown was "weighted by his dollars" and two Court of Appeals judges deemed him lacking. Given the standard of review for decisions of these nature (a complicated topic that I won't go into here) the decision to agree that Mr. Brown needed to spend years in prison instead of in treatment is more of a symptom of the flaws in our criminal justice system than the actual cause . . . . but that does not make it any less troubling. One judge that reviewed this case not only found the perfect quote to summarize what was going on, but rose to the challenge and did not see fit to "measure Mr. Brown's life based on his dollars."
I'm not making any intentional (or unintentional) comparisons between our Court of Appeals and the sitcom The Office; that was just a funny intro that leads to my final point: From here on out, I'm attributing that Dickens quote cited above to Chief Judge Cleary . . . . and I don't think I'm the only attorney that will do so. I hope that everyone in the criminal justice system reads it, and takes it to heart, because prisons are expensive -- and not just in dollars.
The Thompson case is heading to the next level of review: We just received this order granting the State's petition for review, meaning that the Minnesota Supreme Court is set to have the final word on Minnesota's DWI test refusal law in 2016, and we'll be arguing that it is unconstitutional.
Oral arguments will be held the second week of June.
The Minnesota Attorney General's Office has been "invited" to participate as amicus curiae ("Friend of the Court") which is effectively an order to participate in the matter.
In addition to the issues previously presented in the case, the Court is also ordering us to address the fundamental question of what the appropriate legal framework is for addressing the constitutionality of our DWI test refusal law (as in, is this a due process challenge, a Fourth Amendment challenge, or some other challenge?). This additional question, not previously raised in the case, could have very broad legal repercussions.
Then add this fact: the Supreme Court also issued a similar order in the Trahan appeal, ordering those parties to comply with the order just issued in Thompson, and expressing the intention that the parties work together on their briefs and be prepared to argue their cases on the same day. One thing is for sure, some day this June there are going to be a lot of lawyers crammed into the Supreme Court courtroom.
The dismantling of an unconstitutional statutory scheme is, evidently, a slow process.
As of Monday, we are one small step closer to constitutional fidelity. In its unpublished opinion in State v. Thach, the Minnesota Court of Appeals acknowledged that the search-incident-to-arrest exception does not apply to blood and urine tests:
In Trahan, this court held, based on the state’s concession, that Bernard does not apply to a blood test and that a warrantless blood test cannot be justified by the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine. Similarly, in Thompson, this court held that Bernard does not apply to a urine test and that a warrantless urine test cannot be justified by the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine. Collectively, Trahan and Thompson compel the conclusion that, in Thach’s case, the administration of a warrantless blood test or a warrantless urine test would not have been a valid search incident to his arrest.
This conclusion logically follows from the Court's rulings in Trahan and Thompson, so why blog about it?
Because every small step matters. In State v. Bernard, the Minnesota Supreme Court deliberately took no position on the application of its novel interpretation of the search-incident-to-arrest exception to blood and urine tests.
[T]he question of a blood or urine test incident to arrest is not before us, and we express no opinion as to whether a blood or urine test of a suspected drunk driver could be justified as a search incident to arrest.
The Court of Appeals' decision in Thach takes a position on the issue.
Because the state relies only on the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine, we must conclude that Thach had a fundamental right to refuse to submit to both chemical tests.
Even this small step is a step in the right direction.
What can we expect next from Minnesota appellate courts? I'd like to see the elimination of the "as applied" modifier in DWI test refusal cases. These constitutional principles apply to all warrantless blood and urine tests in the implied consent context. The test refusal statute is unconstitutional on its face.
Today another Minnesota judge stayed a DWI proceeding pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in State v. Bernard. The judge ordered:
"Based upon the United States Supreme Court review, this Court will stay this proceeding pending the outcome of the Bernard/Trahan decisions and, after decision is made, the Court will schedule this matter for a pretrial conference."
Due process of law is the backbone of our legal system. Procedurally, the Constitution guarantees each of us the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard before the government takes away our life, liberty, or property.
A driver’s license is a property interest, and Minn. Stat. § 171.19 has finally been found unconstitutional because it authorizes the government to suspend a driver’s license without providing the driver with a prompt, meaningful opportunity to be heard.
“Petitioner” (one of our clients) received a notice of license suspension under Minn. Stat. § 171.19. We filed for judicial review. The district court granted our motion, and rescinded the suspension of our client’s license because, according to the Court:
[T]he failure of Minn. Stat. § 171.19 to provide Petitioner with prompt meaningful review after a prehearing suspension of his driver’s license renders the statute unconstitutional as it violates Petitioner’s rights to due process.
With no prompt hearing language, no authority for a court to stay the suspension pending a hearing, and no prompt decision deadline, a driver like Petitioner is left with the government taking away his protected private interest without prompt recourse to seek review. Without these safeguards, Petitioner’s private interest in the continued use of his license is not sufficiently protected under the due process of the law[.]
The Commissioner of Public Safety argued that the statute is just fine “given the availability of hardship relief in the form of limited licenses, the Ignition Interlock Program and other remedies, … combined with the fact that Petitioner received a hearing within 38 days of filing his petition[.]”
The Court didn’t buy it, and reminded the Commissioner that
[It is] the statute itself that fails to adequately provide Petitioner with proper procedural due process, and the record demonstrates that Petitioner has suffered prejudice from its failure to guarantee a prompt and meaningful review of his license suspension.
This is a welcome, long-overdue victory for individual rights and due process (and a satisfying outcome for our client).
The State of Minnesota—courts, cops, and legislators—provides more constitutional protection to convicted criminals than it does to drivers arrested under suspicion of drunk driving.
You read that right. Incarcerated, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, violent criminals enjoy greater constitutional liberty than innocent-until-proven-guilty drivers suspected of driving while impaired.
Note: Any course of action other than submitting to a test--even exercising the constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment (right to remain silent, no compelled self-incrimination)--is the crime of test refusal
What happens if the subject does not consent to give a blood sample?
Inmate does not take a test, no test is performed, and there are no penal or civil consequences
Driver does not take a test and is charged with DWI and test refusal
Driver submits against her will to avoid the criminal charge of test refusal, and the court later finds that she “voluntarily consented” under the totality of the circumstances (in Minnesota courts submission = consent)
Bernard is a heck of a cloud, but we may have caught a glint of silver in a district court opinion this week.
It appears that Bernard's silver lining may be a return to the universal voluntariness of consent analysis, and the end of the DWI consent analysis double standard. (Follow these links to conduct your own comparison of non-DWI consent analysis and DWI consent analysis.)
In a district court order filed on Monday, the court ultimately used Bernard to validate the warrantless breath test, but the court found no voluntary consent:
The consent exception is not applicable in this case. Although Defendant ultimately submitted to the test, he made clear that he was not doing so voluntarily, as he believed his constitutional rights were being violated. As such, the Court must consider whether another exception to the warrant requirement applies.
Just like that.
Did we mention that Bernard filed his Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday? Bernard may go down as the case that restored meaningful consent. Silver lining indeed!
In Missouri v. McNeely, the United States Supreme Court made it unequivocally clear that chemical tests in the DWI context are not exempted from the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement by the search-incident-to-arrest exception.
Noting that “[s]earch warrants are ordinarily required for searches of dwellings,” we reasoned that “absent an emergency, no less could be required where intrusions into the human body are concerned,” even when the search was conducted following a lawful arrest.
Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 1558, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013).
There is no shame in making a mistake, so long as it is corrected at the earliest opportunity. I trust that this error will be corrected post-haste.
Right now in Minnesota, courts' interpretation of DWI law is all over the map – the law is uncertain, with more gray areas and questions than black-and-white answers.
Is "consent" to search relevant in the DWI context in Minnesota?
Is actual consent possible when "consent" is implied by law?
Do drivers have a "right" to refuse a test when exercising that "right" is a crime (test refusal)?
Does the Fourth Amendment even apply to DWI searches in Minnesota?
Currently, once a driver has been arrested for DWI in Minnesota there are only two possible outcomes: submit to a warrantless search (blood, breath, or urine), or get charged with a crime for refusing to submit. There doesn't seem to be much consent involved. And this appears to apply not only to drivers who have consumed alcohol; the same take-the-test-or-break-the-law "choice" must also be made by drivers who are simply driving while taking medication as prescribed.
We weren’t kidding when we said there are more questions than answers. We depend on judges to come up with the answers, but we can certainly pinpoint the source of all the questions and confusion: the legal fiction that our Implied Consent Law (which governs license revocations) and DWI law (which puts drivers in jail) are separate from each other.
The Minnesota legislature has decided—under the Implied Consent Law—that in exchange for their driving privileges, all drivers arrested for DWI impliedly “consent” to submit to a warrantless search (chemical test of blood, breath, or urine). If a driver refuses to take a test, or if the driver takes and "fails" the test (.08 or higher), the State takes away the driver's license.
The legislature has also decided—under the DWI statute—that driving with an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is a criminal offense punishable by jail time.
The problem is that the legislature “crossed the streams” of the DWI and Implied Consent laws when it made it a crime, under the DWI law, to refuse to take a test under the Implied Consent Law. Together, the laws make it illegal for an arrested individual to refuse to submit to a warrantless search for criminal evidence.
This is a classic Catch-22 for the driver. By claiming the laws are still separate, the state is able to use a driver’s implied consent to take a chemical test (in exchange for a driver’s license) simultaneously as irrevocable "consent" to a warrantless search for criminal evidence.
Now, we aren't judges, but in our opinion this seems unconstitutional, for several reasons. First and foremost among them being the fact that “consent,” by definition, is permission freely and voluntarily given. Permission can always be withdrawn. If permission can’t be withdrawn (without incurring criminal penalty), it’s not voluntary, and therefore, it's not consent.
It wasn't that long ago that Minnesota judges agreed with us:
“The obvious and intended effect of the implied-consent law is to coerce the driver suspected of driving under the influence into ‘consenting’ to chemical testing, thereby allowing scientific evidence of his blood-alcohol content to be used against him in a subsequent prosecution for that offense[,]” Prideaux v. Minnesota, 1976, and "[a]n officer has a right to ask to search and an individual has a right to say no.” State v. George, 1997.
However, since 2013, in Missouri v. McNeely, when the United States Supreme Court clarified that the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement does indeed apply to DWI tests (again, blood, breath, and urine), Minnesota courts have issued a series of contradictory decisions – and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight.
For instance, in State v. Brooks(2013), the Minnesota Supreme Court noted that “[t]he Minnesota Legislature has given those who drive on Minnesota roads a right to refuse the chemical test[,]” and “by reading the implied consent advisory police made clear to [the driver] that he had a choice of whether to submit to testing.”
But this analysis depends on the legal fiction that the implied consent and DWI laws are separate. The statutory reality is thatunder the DWI statute, “[i]t is a crime for any person to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person's blood, breath, or urine under [the Implied Consent Law]," even though the Implied Consent Law says that “[i]f a person refuses to permit a test, then a test must not be given.”
Can a single act, such as test refusal, be both a right and a crime at the same time?
Wanna know our answer?
GET A WARRANT.
DWI suspects have the same constitutional rights as everyone else.
1. Collection and chemical testing of blood, breath, and urine are searches under the Fourth Amendment that require a warrant or consent;
2. Submission to a chemical test required by law, in order to avoid committing a crime by refusing to submit, is not consent; and
3. It is unconstitutional to criminalize refusal to submit to a warrantless search.
But we aren't judges, and according to case law, it appears that consent just isn't relevant in a post-Brooks world.
There is hope on the horizon . . . We expect to see new developments in this area from our federal courts in the near future. Stay tuned – it may be a while before the fog clears, but we’ll be here to help you navigate DWI law until it does.
There’s a particularly . . . odd . . . legal rumor going around, a rumor that is just plain false. The strange claim is being made that under existing precedent, the search incident to lawful arrest exception to the warrant requirement applies to chemical tests in the DWI context. For those familiar with the topic, this logic was the basis for the holding in the recent case of State v. Bernard. In that case, the Minnesota Supreme Court effectively created an entirely new exception to the traditional warrant requirement in DWI cases, repurposing the logic that applies when an officer searches for weapons to apply to the search for incriminating blood alcohol evidence.
Now, as the highest Court in Minnesota, the Minnesota Supreme Court certainly has the right to craft new exceptions to the Constitution for DWI cases (although the last time they tried this, the United States Supreme Court shot it down quite effectively). The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to try again, making a new exception, is not surprising.
What is surprising—the salacious rumor going around, which we’re going to nip in the bud right here—is that the Bernard decision is somehow a natural extension of preexisting law, and not a radical departure from what we’ve come to expect in terms of Constitutional protections.
The legal fact of the matter is that the Bernard majority’s holding is an unprecedented expansion of the quite clearly-defined scope of the search incident to arrest exception. Bernard is not only contrary to well-established federal law, but flies right in the face of the very case it’s trying to side-step – the Missouri v. McNeely decision from 2013. The Bernard majority basically concedes this in its opinion: “our research has not revealed a single case anywhere in the country that holds that a warrantless breath test is not permissible under the search-incident-to-a-valid-arrest exception.”
Is that the type of logic that supports a radical new definition of the Constitution? Or does it make more sense to conclude that the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence? For example, our research has not revealed a single case that holds that a warrantless colonoscopy is not permissible under the search incident to a valid arrest exception. Does that mean that it clearly follows that law enforcement can begin inspecting everyone’s colon after a lawful arrest? Is that how we make law now?
That’s what’s troubling about the current legal landscape – Bernard created a new exception, and now prosecutors are trying to cement that exception into the minds of judges before it gets overturned by the United States Supreme Court. Neither justification for the search incident to arrest exception – officer safety, or the preservation of physical, destructible evidence – is present in the DWI context. Police perform a search incident to arrest, to make sure the arrestee has no weapons or destructible evidence on his person, when they initiate the arrest and take the suspect into custody. The arrest ends when the suspect is secured in a squad car. From that point on, the suspect has no weapons, and is incapable of destroying evidence of driving while impaired. It really is that simple.
By using “traditional case analysis methods,” coupled with science, we arrive at the same legal result.
Alcohol causes impairment only after it has been absorbed into the bloodstream. (Science)
The natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood is not a per se exception to the warrant requirement. (McNeely)
Breath tests are searches subject to the warrant requirement. (Skinner, Kyllo)
Minnesota law enforcement officers receive training on how to get a search warrant. (Rule 6700.0300)
Search warrants can be obtained via telephone in a matter of minutes. (Rule 36.01)
There are only two justifications for the search incident to lawful arrest exception: protecting police and the public by removing weapons, and preventing the destruction of tangible, destructible evidence. (Gant)
One of these two justifications must be present for the search incident to arrest exception to apply. (Gant)
Police perform a search incident to arrest, to make sure a suspect has no weapons or destructible evidence on his or her person, when they take a suspect into custody. (Gant)
Legally, a search incident to arrest must occur contemporaneously with the arrest. (Gant)
The police must observe a DWI suspect for a minimum of 15 minutes after the arrest before conducting a breath test. (Science)
Therefore, a breath test for alcohol concentration is not, legally or temporally, a search incident to arrest under clearly-established federal law.
Now, this is all a fun logic game . . . but then again, it’s also entirely unnecessary. After all, Missouri v. McNeely (the case that Bernard seeks to side step) already made it crystal clear that this “search incident to arrest” exception carries no weight in the DWI context:
Because ‘[s]earch warrants are ordinarily required for searches of dwellings,’ we reasoned that ‘absent an emergency, no less could be required where intrusions into the human body are concerned,’ even when the search was conducted following a lawful arrest * * * * We have never retreated, however, from our recognition that any compelled intrusion into the human body implicates significant, constitutionally protected privacy interests.
If someone tries to blind you with a wall of text, bad logic, or selective citation to authority—be especially wary of reliance on old law, and dissenting, i.e., minority, opinions—it is merely an attempt to convince you that this “search incident to arrest” exception is more than just a passing fancy. Ask them to explain the language from McNeely (quoted above) and then walk them through the 12-point “traditional case method analysis” listed above that. Trust us, they’ll be sputtering by the end.
This is not a particularly surprising development (petitions for rehearing are routinely filed and rarely granted), but what is interesting is the extra line of opinion contained in the denial:
While members of the court disagree about the effects of these cases, the court considered them in reaching its decision.
When the order mentions "these cases" it is probably talking about the two main points raised in the petition for rehearing: the Schmerber decision and the McNeely decision. In Bernard, the Supreme Court seemed to think that it was treading new ground when it decided to call DWI breath tests "searches incident to arrest," and that in doing so it would (again) have found a way to avoid applying the warrant requirement to DWI tests. What the Court failed to even mention, much less distinguish, in the Bernard decision were quotes like these (quotes that squarely address DWI tests):
The mere fact of lawful arrest does not end our inquiry . . . Whatever the validity of [search incident to arrest] considerations in general, they have little applicability with respect to searches involving searches beyond the body's surface.
‘[s]earch warrants are ordinarily required for searches of dwellings,’ we reasoned that ‘absent an emergency, no less could be required where intrusions into the human body are concerned,’ even when the search was conducted following a lawful arrest * * * * We have never retreated, however, from our recognition that any compelled intrusion into the human body implicates significant, constitutionally protected privacy interests.”
That quote spans a couple pages from Missouri v. McNeely, which came out in 2013. Both cases make it pretty clear that search incident to arrest just doesn't apply to DWI arrests.
But should breath tests get special treatment, compared to blood and urine tests? The United States Supreme Court has already said no, back in 1989:
Subjecting a person to a breathalyzer test, which generally requires the production of alveolar or 'deep lung' breath for chemical analysis, implicates similar concerns about bodily integrity and, like the blood-alcohol test we considered in Schmerber, should also be deemed a search.
Is the Minnesota Supreme Court just being "obstinate" (those are not my words, that's from the dissent in Bernard)? It's hard to see where in Bernard the Court considered these cases - two of which clearly rule out "search incident to arrest" in DWI tests, and one that specifically points out that breath tests implicate the same concerns as blood and urine tests.
But one thing is certain - the United States Supreme Court is going to be asked to investigate this decision and determine if Schmerber + Skinner + McNeely can still add up to Bernard. If they don't, it'll be the second time this decade that the Supreme Court has stepped in and told Minnesota that we got it wrong when we tried to judicially create a new exception to the Constitution's Bill of Rights.
For those of you who haven't read the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision in State v. Bernard, h
ere's the bottom line:
After Bernard, it appears that the Minnesota law that makes it a crime to refuse to submit to a warrantless, involuntary breath test is not unconstitutional. That's not what we were hoping for, but it's not all bad.
Let’s start with the good news.
1. No more "hypothetical warrant" nonsense.
In one short paragraph, the Supreme Court dismissed the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ attempted revival of the long-dead “hypothetical warrant doctrine." Here's what they said:
The court of appeals’ analysis is contrary to basic principles of Fourth Amendment law. … [W]e refuse to embrace the rule that the court of appeals applied in this case [the hypothetical warrant doctrine].
Very clear cut, and very refreshing.
2. Bernard applies to breath tests only.
The Bernard majority limited its holding to breath tests, so when it comes to blood and urine tests, it certainly appears that the warrant requirement applies in full force. Again, here's what the Court had to say about blood and urine tests:
[T]he question of a blood or urine test incident to arrest is not before us, and we express no opinion as to whether a blood or urine test of a suspected drunk driver could be justified as a search incident to arrest.
3. The two-justice dissent eloquently laid out a road map for reversing Bernard.
As the dissent points out, state court justices cannot cover their ears, shut their eyes, and “la, la, la…I can’t hear you” their way out of their duty to follow decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States on constitutional law. InMissouri v. McNeely, the U.S. Supreme Court definitively ruled that the potential loss of evidence due to dissipation of alcohol in the blood is not enough to justify an exception to the warrant requirement. The Bernard majority tried to get around McNeely by swapping one per se warrant exception for another one . . . and the dissent squarely called them out on it. Last time the Minnesota Supreme Court tried to circumvent the Constitution with a DWI exception, it only took the U.S. Supreme Court four years to shoot it down. How long will this new attempt last? It's hard to say . . . but let's look a little more closely at the dissent.
Dissent: Nice try with the search incident to arrest exception.
In general, the search incident to arrest exception allows the police to search a person and the area within the person’s reach for two reasons: to protect the police and preserve evidence. These two reasons have been the only justification for the exception since the judiciary created it.
The Bernard majority asserted that because the search incident to arrest exception allows police to search “a person,” extracting breath against a suspect’s will is no different from a pat-down for weapons or confiscation of contraband from a jacket pocket. Where the majority trips over itself is in its attempt to connect its definition of a breath test as a search of a person with either of the justifications--protecting police and preventing the destruction of evidence--that make the search incident to arrest exception reasonable.
Halitosis aside, a suspect’s breath presents no danger to the police, and there is nothing a suspect can do to destroy evidence of alcohol in the breath. But above all, nobody can forget that there is that binding federal precedent on this precise issue: Missouri v. McNeely determined that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the body is not enough to justify a categorical exception to a fundamental constitutional right. It was almost as if the U.S. Supreme Court envisioned Minnesota trying to create a new, flawed exception to the warrant requirement and tried to stop them before they got that far. If that was the case, they failed, in part because . . .
Dissent: The legislature can't criminalize the exercise of constitutional rights.
Finally, the Minnesota statute that criminalizes refusal to submit to testing does so regardless of the type of test refused. Therefore, with respect to blood and urine tests, Bernard is irrelevant. The majority itself admits (without explicitly stating it) that blood and urine tests still require a search warrant to pass constitutional muster, and suspects have the right to refuse any warrantless search the police need a warrant to legally conduct. Minnesota law criminalizes the exercise of that right. That is about as unconstitutional as it gets.
These are our first impressions of the Bernard decision. We'll go into greater depth in another blog post, fully dissecting the decision and its implications for the future (that post will get very legal-ly and wordy, so be warned - you'll want to bring your reading glasses). What we can say for certain right now is that it is highly unlikely that Bernard will be the last word on the constitutionality of Minnesota's test refusal law.
Here it is, at last. The opinion we've all been waiting for: State v. Bernard.
According to our Minnesota Supreme Court:
1. Because a warrantless search of appellant’s breath would have been constitutional as a search incident to a valid arrest, charging appellant with violating Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2 (2014), for refusing to take a breathalyzer in this circumstance does not implicate a fundamental right.
2. Because Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2, is a reasonable means to a permissive object, it does not violate appellant’s right to due process under the United States or Minnesota Constitutions.
Series: The Evolution of the Consent Search Doctrine
As we mentioned in our previous post in this series, the consent search exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement is a relatively recent, judicially-crafted doctrine. Tracing its evolution—or should I say, devolution—reveals a gradual but steady shift away from actual consent (as the right of every individual) toward “consent” as “any cooperation with law enforcement in the absence of extreme and obvious coercion.”
The consent search exception has devolved into a law enforcement tool used liberally and intentionally by the authorities to pressure or trick individuals into doing what they are told.
Our decisions in this case and in [State v.] Dezso represent what I believe will be an ongoing attempt to come to grips with the increasing use by state troopers and police officers of subtle tactics to get motorists and others to “consent” to searches. It appears state troopers and police officers are receiving training on getting “consent” to search, similar to the training sales people receive in getting people to agree to buy things they do not want. One technique is to ask the defendant a question along the following lines: “You wouldn't mind if I looked in the truck, would you?” If the person says “no,” the officer searches. Consumer protection laws provide some protection to consumers who, as a result of sales pitches from sales people, “consent” to purchase products they do not want. We are not dealing with vacuum cleaners in this case but with the liberty and privacy interests of all the people of the State of Minnesota, and we have an obligation to ourselves and to the Constitution of this State to do what we can, in our limited role as a court of last resort, to provide reasonable protection to those interests.
How did we get here? Historically, Minnesota courts have construed the consent search exception to the warrant requirement more narrowly than the United States Supreme Court. In cases decided in 1969 (State v. Mitchell), 1970 (State v. High), and 1999 (State v. Harris), the Minnesota Supreme Court found that just the arrest—and even a pre-arrest seizure—of a suspect pretty much ruled out any “free and voluntary consent.” Their logic was simple and direct: once law enforcement has asserted its authority over you, law enforcement has authority over you. They have guns, tazers, chemical spray, retractable batons, and the training in how to use them; you have the duty to obey, to let them order you around, take your shoes and wallet, and lock your hands behind your back. The imbalance of power is inherently coercive, and it is the court’s duty to protect individuals from abuse of government power.
Decades worth of Minnesota judges enforcing the protections of the Fourth Amendment didn’t just happen in a vacuum. The Court’s decisions in Mitchell and High came in the wake of the federal government’s 1967 mandate that all states implement an implied consent law. Imagine the justices’ jaws dropping; what could be more ridiculous than finding that an individual gave free and voluntary consent when that “consent” was created by the legislature and automatically given when the individual got behind the wheel? Again, lest some take offense, the Court said it best in 1976, in Prideaux v. Dept. of Public Safety:
The obvious and intended effect of the implied-consent law is to coerce the driver suspected of driving under the influence into ‘consenting’ to chemical testing, thereby allowing scientific evidence of his blood-alcohol content to be used against him in a subsequent prosecution for that offense.
Those scare quotes around the word “consenting?” Those were added by the Supreme Court . . . the same Supreme Court that, approximately 37 years later, decided that the “obvious and intended effect of the implied-consent law” is to “make it clear to drivers that they have a choice as to whether to submit to testing.” That’s quite a turnaround.
So, we’ve seen the concept of “consent” evolve slowly over the course of decades, before seeing a sudden, radical redefinition of the concept in 2013. Before Brooks, putting a suspect in handcuffs was often enough to render any consent involuntary, and reading a driver the Implied Consent Advisory was “obviously coercive.” After Brooks, neither of those factors appear to matter.
So what does matter? We’ll discuss that in the next post, when we analyze Minnesota’s New Standard for the Consent Exception to the Fourth Amendment: State v. Brooks.
We interrupt the consent search blog series currently in progress to bring you breaking news: Minnesota district court judges are finally finding that submission to lawful authority is not consent. Relying on the 8th Circuit’s 2004 and 2005 decisions in U.S. v. Gray and U.S. v. Sanders, at least two brave judges are resuscitating the Fourth Amendment by reminding the State that an individual’s consent to a warrantless search may always be withdrawn. Drivers reserve the right to change their minds, and “no” once again means “no.”
Don’t break out the champagne yet, though. These brave district court judges, and their refreshingly true-to-the-constitution decisions, will likely face reversal on appeal when the Court of Appeals finds consent under its interpretation of State v. Brooks. We’re still looking, but we have yet to find a single DWI test coercion case the Court of Appeals couldn’t convert to consent.
So, what is the take-away? Lawyers need to understand the critical legal distinction between submission and consent so that they can effectively counsel drivers about their constitutional rights. In State v. Hoven, the Minnesota Supreme Court noted, as did the federal court in Gray and Sanders, that an individual may withdraw consent to a warrantless search.
In the DWI context, drivers have the constitutional right to see a warrant before law enforcement obtain a blood, breath, or urine sample. According to the courts, drivers should be able to withdraw their consent to a warrantless search by expressing their intent to withdraw consent with an unequivocal act or statement (I’ll give an example of what that looks like in a minute). Once a driver withdraws his or her consent, the driver may then submit to the warrantless test law enforcement tells them they are “required by law” to take … because submitting to that test is not the same thing as consenting to it. Without valid consent – or one of the other judicially-crafted exceptions to the constitution – the results of a warrantless test must be suppressed.
Attorneys cannot ethically or legally counsel a client to commit the crime of test refusal, but attorneys must inform clients that an unequivocal withdrawal of consent by word or action is a constitutional right. While this isn’t legal advice, something like this oughtta do it: “I withdraw my implied consent to a warrantless search and I do not freely and voluntarily consent to the warrantless test of my blood, breath, or urine. I am submitting to a chemical test only because I am required to do so by law, and I am acquiescing to a claim of lawful authority. I do not consent.”
Stay tuned for the next installment in the consent search series: The Evolution of the Consent Search Doctrine.
Minnesota is its own sovereign power, meaning that it’s free to wield its authority how it wants, more or less, so long as the wielding is done within its borders. Cross the line into Wisconsin to the east, Iowa to the south, or the Dakotas to the west – each of which are their own sovereign powers – and Minnesota’s authority goes limp.
The individual states, in other words, generally cannot tell each other what to do. But that’s exactly what happened in a recent case involving a truck driver’s Commercial Driver’s License.
The driver, a young single father from North Carolina, was picked up while on a haul in Minnesota for driving under the influence. He blew .051, over the .04 limit for CDL holders, so the Minnesota sovereignty, in the form of its Department of Public Safety, promptly stripped the man’s CDL from him. Note that his CDL was issued by North Carolina, not Minnesota.
Now, you would expect the Department of Public Safety to yank a commercial driver’s license whenever a driver is accused of being over the legal limit. Here’s the language of the DPS’s Commercial Driver Disqualification notice, as written on the notice given to our driver from North Carolina:
“You cannot drive a commercial motor vehicle in Minnesota or any other state while your driving privilege is disqualified. Although you may use the card for identification, it is against the law to present it as a valid commercial driver’s license or permit.” [Emphasis added.]
Again, this is the notice put in the hands of the truck driver in this story. And the driver, obeying the DPS imperative not to drive anywhere in the country, stopped driving, despite having a family to care for.
We took one look at this case and said, “this isn’t right, and we need to fix this.”
What did we need to fix? Take a closer look at that “emphasis added” part, the part in bold font, which states that this commercial driver was forbidden from driving – not only in Minnesota – but in any other state, including his home state of North Carolina.
Minnesota’s sovereignty grew an extra arm or leg, apparently. At most, Minnesota can notify North Carolina about a driver’s DWI arrest and CDL violation, but cannot rescind the driver’s right to use his CDL in North Carolina. That’s North Carolina’s call. So in this case we argued that DPS’s Commercial Driver Disqualification notice was misleading, and because it was misleading, it violated our client’s due process rights.
The judge agreed, and rescinded our client’s CDL revocation and disqualification. And that’s just one example of the type of ingenuity and zeal that it takes to be an effective DWI attorney.
Drivers in Minnesota can have their license revoked for a variety of reasons besides alcohol. Using street drugs (heroin, methamphetamine, and so forth) will lead to a revocation, as will prescription drugs. It’s quite a stretch to say that someone should lose their license for using a Vicks VapoInhaler, though . . . and even more of a stretch to make the claim that someone suffering from nasal congestion should be deemed a meth head. But that’s how the Minnesota BCA seems to operate.
They tested a DWI blood sample, and decided to report the sample as positive for methamphetamine. The driver, having never used meth in her life, had an independent laboratory test the same sample. That lab reported a big “negative” for meth.
How could two independent laboratories, using the latest in technologies, test the same sample and come up with separate results? That was the question presented to a Sterns County Judge, who weighed the evidence and ultimately concluded that the BCA had overstepped its bounds in deciding to report this driver’s test as positive for meth.
So, back to the driver who used over the counter medicine to counter a common cold and got labeled as a meth user. It turns out that when the BCA tested that driver’s blood, it detected levels of methamphetamine so low that the rest of the scientific community would have deemed the sample as “negative.” But not the BCA; despite the real risk that the molecular similarities between the compounds found in Vick’s VapoInhaler and actual, illegal meth could create a “false positive,” our BCA reported the result in a way that would guarantee criminal charges and a license revocation.
What’s even more interesting is that the independent lab that also tested the sample actually detected a higher concentration of “meth” in this blood sample (.009 mg/L) versus the BCA’s reading (.0074) yet still (correctly) reported her test as “negative.”
The Court, with the aid of forensic scientist Thomas Burr’s testimony, addressed the conflicting evidence from the BCA and the independent lab. The Court ultimately held that the BCA’s disregard for the “general convention of science” meant that the government failed to meet its burden to prove that the driver was actually violating Minnesota’s DWI laws at the time she was driving, and therefore reversed the license revocation.
The BCA may be designing its lab policies to ensure a maximum amount of convictions, versus doing its duty to disclose the full scientific truth according to established scientific principles . . . but that's why we have defense attorneys.
You'll want to stay tuned - we've got a truly shocking new development to disclose shortly, detailing major problems with the BCA and its DWI breath test division.
Being a judge is a daunting task; donning their robes and wielding their gavels, every day in the life of a judge involves making difficult decisions. Sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes intellectually exhausting, but always weighty, these daily decisions by the judiciary are one of the crucial cornerstones of our democracy - a government of laws, not of men.
Such a heavy responsibility leaves little room for levity, or humor; phrases like "sober as a judge" exist for a reason. But sometimes a judge will issue a decision that strikes a perfect balance between seriousness and smiles. And so you'll see the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court try his hand at paying homage to a dime store detective novel in one of his decisions. Or read the dissent of different Supreme Court Justice, who solemnly describes the "awesome responsibility" of the Supreme Court of the United States "laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government's power '[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,' . . . . to decide . . . . What Is Golf."
Yesterday, we were forwarded an order from a judge here in Minnesota that manages to strike that perfect balance between levity and wit (and perhaps underscores just how up-in-the-air DWI law has become since the McNeely decision). Trust me, you want to read this order, specifically, the memorandum of law. It does a great job of summing up exactly how we got to where we are today with respect to warrantless DWI searches . . . and does so by harkening back to the wild, wild west.
In our previous blog we discussed the shifting legal landscape regarding district court challenges to DWI tests based upon the McNeely decision. We also included a link to a redacted copy of Judge Pendleton's recently issued analysis of the issue, which ultimately ruled (after detailed analysis) that a breath test search taken without a warrant was unconstitutional.
Many readers asked for a full version of the order.
Judges across Minnesota are beginning to issue orders that carefully analyze the impact of the decision in Missouri v. McNeely on Minnesota's DWI Laws.
Today we're going to post one of the more insightful orders issued to date, authored by the Honorable Alan Pendleton from the 10th Judicial District. Judge Pendleton is well regarded not just as a fair and honest judge, but also for his near limitless ability to act as an educator. Among other activities, Judge Pendleton authors a series of "Judicial Training Tips" that provide simple, quick reference sheets for our extremely overworked judiciary (we are a particular fan of his article on obtaining telephonic warrants)
We recently received a copy of his order, suppressing the results of a DWI breath test based upon the McNeely decision. This order, in our opinion, does a masterful job of explaining precisely how the Fourth Amendment applies to DWI searches, as well as how to analyze any potential exceptions to the warrant requirement that may exist in a DWI case. The order specifically deals with the "consent" exception in great detail, finding that there is no basis in law to conclude that "implied consent" equals actual consent for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment.
Since the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) released its long-awaited decision in Missouri v. McNeely, Minnesota courts have struggled with how to apply the Fourth Amendment to DWI searches after years of believing that the Constitution's rule that all people have the right, "to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures" did not apply to DWI tests.
Some judges have simply carried on as usual, usually by finding that the McNeely decision somehow has no effect in Minnesota (we'll discuss the logic behind these rulings in our upcoming myth-busting blog series). Other judges have taken the cautious course - placing their cases on hold pending further guidance from Minnesota's own Supreme Court on how to deal with this thorny issue.
Some judges, however, see that this issue isn't nearly as "thorny" as it appears, and that McNeely applies to Minnesota DWIs in a very straight forward way (we even constructed a handy flow chart to show just how simple the analysis is).
Here are several examples of judicial orders suppressing DWI test results and/or thoughtfully discussing the implications of the Missouri v. McNeely decision in Minnesota. There are many more out there - we're not going to provide them all, but these orders in particular are insightful and well written, and stand as good examples.
But even these orders only tell half the story - we've resolved numerous cases without even litigating this issue simply on the strength of our arguments.
Our own Charles Ramsay, known and respected across the country for his legal knowledge, appeared on WCCO Channel 4 News last night to provide his analysis of the recent Supreme Court decision in Missouri v. McNeely.
While prosecutors are publicly downplaying the impact of the decision, Ramsay explained how this broad reaching decision will affect not only blood test cases, but also breath and urine cases, and that law enforcement agents will need to quickly change their current procedures or risk having all test results thrown out of court.
The article associated with the interview does a good job of laying out the basic facts of the McNeely case, as well as discussing the legal holding in the case. We'd suggest reading it.
Make no mistake - this decision will have a tremendous impact on all future DWI cases. This case marks an important shift towards a stricter interpretation of our Constitution's Fourth Amendment, upholding personal privacy rights against the steady onslaught of decisions that have steadily eroded our constitutional protections in the name of "efficiency."
A healthy respect for everyone's privacy does nothing to prevent law enforcement from doing their jobs - instead, it ensures that fewer innocent people will be subjected to intrusive searches on the whim of police officers. Hundreds of DWIs may be thrown out of court as a result of this decision, but in the long term, the legal system will be further strengthened and we will see less examples of "rogue" cops who would like to act with as little judicial oversight as possible.
The manner in which the police enforce Minnesota's DWI laws was fundamentally changed this morning, when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark decision in the case of Missouri v. McNeely (link leads to a copy of the opinion).
It's a complicated decision broken down into four parts (some parts commanding a majority, some not), a concurrence, and a dissent. It will take time to fully digest exactly how many ways this decision will affect the future of Minnesota DWI law enforcement, but one thing is very clear.
The Supreme Court just overturned the decision in State v. Netland, a case we brought before the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2009. As a direct result of the McNeely decision, there is no longer a "single factor exigency" doctrine to speak of, meaning that law enforcement around the state (and the nation) will have to at least consider obtaining a search warrant prior to administering a chemical test for intoxication.
This will have a major impact on law enforcement practices going forward, but will have a much bigger effect on the many cases currently in the court system. We've been positioning our client's cases for months in anticipation of this decision, and plan to take full advantage of this fundamental change in the case law to benefit our clients.
The importance of this decision cannot be understated. Not only does the McNeely decision eliminate the judicially-constructed doctrine of "single factor exigency" once and for all (and add renewed strength to the privacy protections that are the cornerstone of the Fourth Amendment) but it opens a whole new can of worms in Minnesota. For starters, there is a good chance that Minnesota's test refusal law is no longer constitutional, and will have to be discarded.
We'll bring you more information once we've had a chance to fully digest the impact of this decision, but in the meantime, you may want to read some of our previous blogs leading up to today's opinion:
Since the beginning of February, we've been spendingsometime blogging about the Missouri v. McNeely case and how we expect it will impact both pending DWI cases and future DWI cases.
But that's just our opinion, our analysis. While there are some pour souls who simply refuse to believe that the McNeely decision could possibly impact Minnesota law, we understand how important this case could be. But our opinions aren't the ones that matter: what about opinions from those who will actually weigh the impact of this case - namely, judges?
We recently obtained this order from a district court judge that demonstrates just how smart our judiciary really is. This judge isn't throwing out our client's case (yet); this isn't a ruling on the merits of the action. But it is a very well-worded, well-thought out, order that recognizes the obvious: unless you are burying your head in the sand, there is no denying that McNeely has the potential to revolutionize the practice of DWI law . . . and good defense attorneys will make sure that they're protecting all of their current client's rights before the decision is released.
In thePatino decision, the Supreme Court got it exactly right and ruled in favor of Patino (you can read up on the facts of the case in our previous blog post). In a nutshell, the Court concluded that the State cannot forfeit a driver’s vehicle for DWI unless they are actually convicted of that DWI. The State tried to argue that it could keep these vehicles even without a conviction - an argument that was not supported by the language of Minnesota’s DWI forfeiture law, and an argument that was rejected by the Court.
Today’s case was a big step towards fixing some of the unjust consequences of our DWI forfeiture laws, and big credit needs to go out to our own Dan Koewler, who wrote the amicus brief, and to Kirk M. Anderson, who represented Laura Patino.
Every DWI case is different. In our eyes, this means that every DWI is a new opportunity to win.
We recently won a DWI case out of Dakota County after convincing the judge to throw out the urine test results. The test result was a .08, and the State was not willing to dismiss the case - so we fought back.
We argued two theories as to why this test result didn’t matter. First, we argued that the BCA’s method of analyzing fluid samples (a gas headspace chromatograph) simply wasn’t accurate enough to prove that a .08 result (per se guilty) wasn’t really a .079 (innocence). This “uncertainty of measurement” argument is gaining steam nationwide, as judges take a closer look at the science behind DWI testing, and we’re leading the way in Minnesota in order to ensure our clients are not convicted based on bad science.
We also argued, in the alternative, that the test results in this particular case were not reliable because the very machine used to test the sample was calibrated in such a way so as to inflate the test results. Instead of taking the test results at face value, we examined every step of the process used to analyze our client’s sample and noticed this mistake.
It took half a day of expert testimony and some fairly in-depth argument, but we’re not one to back down from a fight. At the end of the day the judge agreed with us and our arguments, and threw out the test. We also managed to highlight the absurdity of the State’s position on DWI tests, and refuted their claims that their testing methods are infallible.
This is just one example of our many successes, highlighting just two of the legal defenses that can be raised in a DWI case. And it goes to show that you can’t win if you don’t fight.
At times, it seems as though law enforcement need no reason at all to stop a passing motorist and begin gathering evidence of criminal activity. For decades, the line dividing a constitutional stop from an unconstitutional one has steadily drifted towards “no specific reason at all” as our legislature passed more and more laws regulating traffic control to the point where it is almost impossible not to break some sort of traffic regulation with any regularity.
Which is why it was refreshing to see the Court of Appeals overturn the stop of a motorist based upon that person “flashing” their high-beams twice. In Sarber v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, the only reason for stopping the driver was because they flashed their high-beams, twice, at a passing sheriff’s deputy. The deputy stopped the driver and ultimately arrested him for DWI.
While the district court decided that the driver’s flashing of his high beams broke the law and supported a traffic stop, the Court of Appeals disagreed. In a well-written opinion, the court looked at the plain language of the statute that supposedly penalizes the use of high beams when near oncoming traffic (typical work for a trained lawyer) but then went one extra step and applied common sense. The court noted that it is common practice for drivers to flash their high beams at other drivers to warn them of upcoming hazards, or notify them that their own high beams are still illuminated. By interjecting common sense into dense legal argument, the court cleanly decided that innocent behavior by drivers (briefly and quickly flashing their high-beams) cannot be the sole basis for a constitutional traffic stop.
While the evidence that a peace officer needs to observe before stopping a passing motorist is still very small, and while Minnesota law enforcement is one of the most well-trained groups of peace officers in the U.S., many DWI traffic stops are still performed unconstitutionally.
Chuck Ramsay of our own Ramsay Law Firm again appeared on Fox 9 News to provide his experience and insight regarding the effects of the recent Supreme Court decision dealing with the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, and what effect this decision will have on pending and future DWI cases.
Watch the video to see Ramsay talk about what types of evidence can be presented to a jury, what wight a juror should give Intoxilyzer breath test result, and the importance of relying upon good scientific principles when enforcing our DWI laws.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has just released its 4-3 opinion regarding the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000 in thousands of Minnesota DWI cases.
You can view the opinion here. We'll be providing a detailed analysis of the 38 page decision once we've had an opportunity to carefully review it, but upon first reading, the decision is best summed up with a quote from Justice Page (dissenting):
"The practical result of the court’s holdings is that defendants will be unable to challenge Intoxilyzer 5000EN results. Despite evidence that the test has a margin of error, that radio frequencies from cell phones can disturb the accuracy of the test, and that the test may erroneously produce a deficient sample, a defendant may not raise the source code as a potential cause of an inaccurate or deficient sample. Denying the accused an opportunity to raise source code issues effectively eliminates the accused’s opportunity to challenge the results."
The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision today in the case of State v. Tanksley. In this case, the Court held that the appellant was not entitled to a first-prong Frye-Mack hearing to contest the scientific reliability of first-void urine alcohol tests (F-VUAT), stating that appellant had not properly raised a “relevant reason for holding a [Frye-Mack] hearing” and denying Tanksley’s attempt to raise further arguments for the first time on appeal. On these facts, the Supreme Court held that the general acceptance of F-VUAT testing by the scientific community was irrelevant when someone was charged with the per se crime of driving with an alcohol concentration over .08g per 67 mL of urine.
At first blush, this decision is a harsh blow to anyone charged with a DWI based upon widely-discredited F-VUAT tests. However, Tanksley is as important for what it does say as for what it does not.
This decision makes it clear that our courts will not subject F-VUAT tests to the scrutiny of the fist-half of the Frye-Mack test. But remember . . . the Frye-Mack standard asks two questions. First it asks if a test has gained “general acceptance” (for the last time, it certainly has not, but the Court has ruled that the very question is irrelevant). Secondly, and most importantly, the Frye-Mack test asks whether or not the test has foundational reliability. Those two words are some of the most loaded words in the legal language, and go to the heart of our argument against F-VUAT testing. And that question - “Does F-VUAT testing have foundational reliability?” - was never even addressed by counsel for Tanksley and thus was not addressed in the Tanksley decision.
We have that very question up on appeal, and are prepared to argue it to the Supreme Court in the wake of the Tanksley decision. And while the Tanksley decision made it clear that their decision was based upon a fear that any other ruling would force them to “add an element to the alcohol-concentration offense that is not present, ” our challenge to the foundational reliability of F-VUAT tests has nothing to do with statutory language. In other words, challenging the foundational reliability of a F-VUAT urine test does not hinge on the criminalization of .08g of alcohol per 67 mL of urine; instead, the challenge is based upon how we reach that .08 threshold. And the scientific community makes one thing clear - that foundational reliability requires a second void.
Although the Tanksley decision answered one question, it left another one wide open . . . meaning that F-VUAT tests haven’t yet seen the end of their troubles in court.
Under a shoot-first-ask-questions-later philosophy, the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety can take away drivers’ licenses without first conducting a hearing on the propriety of the revocation pursuant to the Minnesota Implied Consent Act. Although drivers may challenge the license revocation in court, it can take months before the case goes to court. Even in those cases where a judge ultimately orders license reinstatement, the damage is already done. There is no way to “undo” the loss of a license during the wait. But a major overhaul to the law may have so radically changed the legal landscape that the law is no longer constitutional.
Previous Constitutional Challenges to Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law
The Minnesota Supreme Court has found the basic premise of pre-hearing license revocation to be constitutional. In balancing the interests of public safety against the rights of individual drivers, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld in Heddan v. Dirkswager (1983) that there were sufficient procedural safeguards to protect the private interest of the driver. At the time those protections included (1) the relatively short revocation period; (2) the immediate availability of a work permit; and (3) a speedy hearing.
After the legislature tinkered with the statute, the Minnesota Supreme Court warned the legislature in the 1994 Davis case not to further erode the procedural safeguards or it would strike down the law as unconstitutional. Although the court upheld the statute, it was troubled by the fact that “a court cannot undo an erroneous revocation,” because “full retroactive relief cannot be provided” and “even a day’s loss of a driver’s license could inflict grave injury upon a person.”
Minnesota Supreme Court: Law Violates Constitution
While it was not “prepared at [that] time to conclude that the legislation in question violate[d] either federal or state due process guarantees,” in 2003 the legislature removed drivers’ right to a prompt hearing. For the first time, the Minnesota Supreme found the law unconstitutional in Fedziuk v. Commissioner of Public Safety (2005), holding that that the law offended the constitution’s right to due process.
New, Radical Changes
Despite the Supreme Court’s early warnings and then later finding the Implied Consent Act unconstitutional, the 2010 legislature radically changed the implied consent law. In doing so, the legislature increased the duration of a first time misdemeanor revocation from 90 days to one year and completely removed the right to a work permit for those with an alleged alcohol concentration of .16 or more.
The legislature attempted to give the appearance of softening the blow to drivers by providing for “zero day eligibility” for ignition interlock. This is just a mirage. First, the administrative process is so unwieldy the Department of Public Safety has been unable to provide anything close to immediate reinstatement, even with the installation of the interlock devices. Second, the cost is prohibitive for most. While the costs vary, drivers must pay hundreds of dollars in fees for installation and monitoring to private carriers. They must pay a $680 reinstatement fee. Finally, they must fork over a four digit amount in advance for a one-year, non-cancellable insurance policy. Presumably, even if a court finds the revocation improper, it would be impossible to undo the erroneous revocation and provide full retroactive relief. Not only would the interim loss of the license inflict injury, but the driver would lose thousands in costs of the ignition interlock program and non-cancellable insurance.
The Risk of Erroneous License Revocation is Higher Today Than Ever
Finally, the risk of erroneous deprivation is higher today than ever. The state continues to use the Intoxilyzer 5000 for DUI breath testing, which does not always work properly according to the judge in the consolidated source code case. Or, it relies on DUI urine testing using procedures not accepted by the scientific community – and not used at all in any other jurisdiction in the entire country.
Our firm is raising this issue in almost every DUI case. There is no doubt it will eventually come before the Supreme Court. Will it find the law unconstitutional?
Most counties seem to be of the opinion that they need to stay all proceedings pending a final decision by our Supreme Court. In our opinion, this is not only the smart option, but the only legal one. Minnesota Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 108.01, subd. 2 makes it clear that our lower courts are prohibited from doing anything to affect the current source code appeal - which includes setting cases on for trial (cases that could then be “re-appealed” and effectively double the judicial system’s workload).
While most counties have followed this route, there are some exceptions - notably Anoka and Ramsey counties. In Anoka County, all of the previously stayed cases were returned to active judicial calendars after Judge Abrams issued his order. However, after the Minnesota Court of Appeals granted review of that order and the Supreme Court granted expedited review, Anoka County chose to reverse course - and continued to stay all Intoxilyzer breath test cases.
Ramsey County, on the other hand, who also originally stayed all of its Intoxilyzer cases, recently issued an order lifting that stay and ordering all cases to proceed. In light of Rule 108.01 and the currently pending motion to stay proceedings pending in front of the Supreme Court, it is unclear how much progress will be made on these cases . . . but as of today, every pending Intoxilyzer case is being pushed back on to Ramsey County judicial calendars.
It will be interesting to see how the situation in Ramsey County progresses. Maybe Ramsey County will reverse course in the same way that Anoka did (the coalition emailed the Ramsey County Court objecting to the new order). Or maybe Ramsey County will set hundreds of cases for trial, only to be ordered by the Supreme Court to cancel everything and wait for the conclusion of the appeal. Only time will tell, but for now, defendants and attorneys with Ramsey County DWI cases should be prepared to resume their cases while the final determination of whether Intoxilyzer test results are admissible is still up in the air.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has accepted accelerated review of the appeal that was made of Judge Abrams' Order as part of the consolidated Source Code litigation. This means that rather than arguing this case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals before appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the case is being immediately sent to the highest court in the land. This should ensure the speediest possible resolution to the consolidated challenge to the Intoxilyzer 5000EN.
The use of urine tests for DWI’s in Minnesota received yet another endorsement from the Court of Appeals today. At issue in the case of Ellingson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety was the question of whether urine tests fell into the “single factor exigency” doctrine that permits law enforcement to collect other types of samples (blood and breath) without first obtaining a warrant.
What makes the issue compelling - and highlights another reason why Minnesota is pretty much the only place in the world that is still using urine tests - has to do with the basic fact that the alcohol in a person’s bladder is fundamentally different than the alcohol in a person’s bloodstream.
The argument, simply put, is that while your average person’s blood alcohol steadily decreases over time (due to action by the liver and kidneys) the same doesn’t hold true for alcohol in a person’s bladder. In fact, we’ve presented unrebutted expert testimony in court that urine alcohol, compared to blood alcohol, doesn’t decrease at all.
In the Ellingson case, the court was only presented with the testimony of a government-paid, government employed lab technician, who convinced the court that urine alcohol “could” rapidly change in concentration. However, if you ask a toxicologist who isn’t employed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apphrension, they’ll tell you that any change in urine alcohol concentration could affect, at most, the third digit (example: a sample that would test at .105 could, over an hour, change by about .002).
Thus, the “single-factor exigency” doctrine, which was designed to apply in blood and breath test cases where alcohol concentration can go down by .015 in an hour, now applies to situations where any alcohol concentration may be decreasing by a comparatively minuscule amount.
This issue is far from finished. The Ellingson court based its finding on a very lenient standard of review (it gave great deference to the lower court’s opinion of the testimony it was presented with). In another case, with more accurate testimony, the courts will still be free to find that urine alcohol concentration doesn’t diminish rapidly enough to permit a warrantless intrusion. This is just another example of bad facts making for bad law.
Far too often we field calls from people who were recently arrested for DWI and just want to “plea and get it over with.” Now, don’t get me wrong – pleas and plea negotiation are a huge part of being a successful attorney. But going into a case expecting to immediately plea to the first available offer is a surefire way to end up being punished far more harshly than the law typically allows.
Some of these calls are a direct result of the “overzealous prosecutor.” This is the prosecutor who is willing to push every case as far as they can, without regard to any individual circumstances or facts that could lead to a reduced charge or sentence. A good example of this type of case was recently published by our Court of Appeals. In State v. Brown, someone was charged with DWI while operating a motor scooter. Not just any motor scooter – this scooter topped out at around 5 miles per hour and was necessary because the “driver” was disabled. Unable to walk, this scooter was his only way to get around.
Now, why would a prosecutor charge someone with DWI while they were, in effect, just walking around? The simple answer is because they thought they could get away with it. Out of shame or embarrassment, many people are willing and able to plea to whatever crime they’ve been charged with, regardless of the facts and the law (and sadly, too many attorneys who are ethically bound to zealously represent their clients are more than willing to take their money and let them).
In Brown, the Court of Appeals quickly determined that DWI doesn’t apply to someone who relies on their scooter for day-to-day mobility needs. Which makes me wonder – how many other individuals pled guilty in the past to this exact same offense rather than question whether the charge was even valid?
Our clients are continually surprised at the sheer volume of meritorious defenses that can be raised to defend against a charge of DWI. Before you give in and plead to a criminal charge, it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney first. In most cases, the only way to counter an overzealous prosecutor is to have an equally zealous defense attorney in your corner.
Recognizing that Minnesota’s DWI test refusal law is more complicated that meets the eye, this week the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a man convicted of refusing to submit to a DWI test in State v. Koppi. The Court ruled that the trial court had given an erroneous jury instruction which did not accurately convey the law. The Court granted the driver a new trial as the error was not harmless.
There are numerous other facts that a jury must find as well before a driver can be convicted of test refusal. Koppi says that the criminal refusal law, Minnesota Statute section 169A.20, subdivision 2, incorporates the requirements from section 169A.51, of the Implied Consent Law. It specifically held, “Refusing a chemical test is not a crime, therefore, unless it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer had ‘probable cause to believe the person was driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle’ while impaired.”
Koppi held that Minnesota’s standard jury instruction for DWI test refusal does not accurately convey the law. The trial court in Koppi read the following to the jury:
Probable cause means that the officer can explain the reason the officer believes it was more likely than not that the defendant drove, operated or was in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
1. It does not require the officer to recite actual observations and circumstances supporting a finding of probable cause;
2. It fails to include the requirement that the jury evaluate the totality of the circumstances from the viewpoint of a reasonable police officer;
3. The instruction erroneously requires that an officer believe a driver was “more likely than not” driving while impaired, rather than the proper “honest and strong suspicion” standard.
Some defense attorneys may believe that amending the jury instruction from “probable cause” to “honest and strong suspicion” may be detrimental to the driver. But the new standard does not lower the standard; it merely gives greater guidance to the jury, taking away mathematical probabilities.
Although the court did not provide an actual jury instruction to be used, the court’s guidance on developing a new standard included the requirement of “probability.”
The “honest and strong suspicion” standard requires more than mere suspicion, but less than the evidence required for a conviction. Probable cause requires only a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity.
The court left for another day whether the trial court could substitute its own determination for that of the jury whether the driver had been given sufficient time to consult with an attorney. Meanwhile, the defense will continue to challenge Minnesota's test refusal law, including whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous. See Minnesota's Test Refusal Law: Findings a Loophole in a "Knotty" Law.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an order last week which could signal a dramatic shift in the way DWI alcohol tests - especially urine tests - are conducted, while breathing new life into the Fourth Amendment.
In DWI arrests where the police obtain a breath or a blood sample, the Minnesota Supreme Court has held that there is no need to obtain a warrant before getting a sample. While blood, breath and urine tests are considered “searches” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment Warrant Clause, our Supreme Court crafted a narrow exception to the warrant requirement in DWI cases where blood or breath samples were collected. The Court ultimately held that the, “rapid, natural dissipation” of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream meant that there was no time to obtain a warrant –that any driver’s alcohol concentration could fall below the legal limit while the police were in the process of obtaining a warrant.
While this “single factor exigency” doctrine has never been approved in urine test cases, the trial court did so in the case of Swanson v. Commissioner of Public Safety. In that case, an expert witness testified to the common fact that urine alcohol concentration doesn’t “rapidly dissipate” like blood and breath alcohol (as we’ve said for years, the only way your urine alcohol concentration decreases is by voiding your bladder). Despite this testimony, the court held that an officer still did not have time to obtain a search warrant without losing alcohol evidence, and upheld the license revocation. Sam McCloud, the attorney representing the driver in Swanson, rightly appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Then, in a rare procedural move, the Court of Appeals did two things: it signaled its intentions to hold that the “single factor exigency” doctrine does not apply in DWI urine cases, but then chose to send the case back to the trial court to further develop the record. Specifically, the Court wanted to make sure that no other exceptions to the warrant requirement (specifically, the “consent” exception) were present.
In its order, the Court of Appeals said:
“Hypothetically, if this court were to hold that the exigency exception does not apply, a remand would be necessary to determine the applicability of the consent exception, for that issue was not decided by the district court and was not briefed or argued on appeal. To foster a meaningful review in this appeal, the district court must decide the applicability of both exceptions. Therefore, the district court is directed to decide the issue of whether the consent exception applies in this case, and the matter is remanded as to that issue.”
In our humble opinion, if the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court, it simply would have affirmed the lower court’s order. Because it remanded the case for further proceedings, it appears the court of appeals believes the consent issue to be controlling. Talk about a positive sign – right on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to review the science behind urine testing, the appellate courts are now also carefully considering the science behind drunk driving offenses.
So, the question is now, “did the driver actually consent to a urine test?” Well, we suggest you stay tuned - later this week we’ll explain exactly why the driver did not consent, and why Minnesota is one of very few states where saying “yes” to a urine test isn’t the same thing as consenting to a urine test.
The thousands of consolidated DWI cases stemming from tests on the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, previously heard by Judge Abrams in the First Judicial District, have officially been accepted for review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
In an Order filed April 28, 2011, the Court of Appeals held that there were “compelling reasons” to grant review of Judge Abrams’ Order. While this case might ultimately be forwarded directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court, we are currently preparing to present our arguments to the Court of Appeals.
We were probably the first attorneys in Minnesota to start bringing Frye-Mack challenges against the practice of using urine tests to prosecute drivers for DWI.
Now, one of the first cases where we raised this argument has finally made its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which just accepted review of our case, State v. Boeder.
This is part of a clear trend - the Minnesota Supreme Court seems ready and willing to address head-on the basic fact that scientists worldwide reject urine testing for DWI cases. Stay tuned . . . things are about to get even more interesting.
Judge Abrams noted that Minnesota officials and the BCA have been aware of the broken Intoxilyzer since at least 2006, but have refused to install corrected software.
The slope detection software … does reject under somecircumstances samples which are valid. … In situations where this result has been reported due to slope acceptance criteria in the 240 version of the software, the BCA could have implemented corrective software but chose not to update the instruments. This conclusion is confirmed by the testimony of the BCA witnesses.
Now that Judge Abrams has made official findings that the Intoxilyzer 5000 software does not work properly and that the BCA has a fix to correct the problem, it would be reasonable to believe we would stop using these broken machines for DWI alcohol testing.
[T]he BCA was aware from the fall of 2006 onward that a change in the Source Code was made that caused, under some circumstances, previously acceptable breath samples to be rejected. This software, version 240, continues to be used with knowledge of this problem and without change or correction by the BCA.
Surprisingly, Minnesota continues to use these fatally flawed machines to revoke drivers’ licenses and put innocent people in jail.
Perhaps the answer lies in the arrogance of state officials responsible for the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN. According to Judge Abrams:
There is a general perception that perfection and flawless operation is present in the Intoxilyzer and its test results. Those responsible for the operation and maintenance of the device have been defensive and at times outright hostile to the suggestion that problems may exist….
Luckily, we now have the evidence we need to suppress every Intoxilyzer test that reports a “deficient sample,” no matter how long the State continues to use this broken machine. Be sure to stick around for tomorrow’s blog, where we detail how every case where the Intoxilyzer reported a deficient sample should be dismissed . . . and why.
Minnesota continues to use Intoxilyzer 5000 Despite Hundreds of Defective Breath Cases Annually.
Last month, Judge Abrams issued his consolidated Intoxilyzer source code order. In a case directly affecting more than 4,000 Minnesota DWIs – and thousands more indirectly – the court decided that the Intoxilyzer, while suffering from many defects, is not so flawed as to prevent the test results from being admitted into evidence in most cases. In other words, the test results are “close enough for government work,” but drivers’ attorneys are still free to present evidence attacking the results (even this conclusion is currently under appeal).
Few people realize that Judge Abrams did not find that all test results are admissible. He actually highlighted the fatal errors in the source code that wrongly reject perfectly valid samples, stating that, “In cases in which the Intoxilyzer 5000EN … reported a ‘Deficient Sample,’ the Source Code of the instrument does impact the reliability, solely, of this result. Evidence in such cases of a ‘Deficient Sample’ test report should not be allowed ….”
In the order’s Conclusion, the court indicates the machine reports a deficient sample even when the sample is not actually deficient.
There is one limited situation, as discussed earlier, in which the labeling of a sample as “deficient” arises from multiple causes. At least one of these causes is a consequence of the Source Code's instructions to the microprocessors and has little, if anything, to do with whether the sample is actually deficient.
Under my cross examination, BCA experts were forced to openly admit that the current version of the source code has more than three times the number of deficient samples as the prior version. According to the BCA’s own data, hundreds of drivers each year who provide a sample greater than 1.1 liters are deemed to have provided a deficient sample!
We’ve been striving for years to bring these issues into the public spotlight. Now, with Judge Abrams’ order, we finally have the evidence we need to successfully debunk the myth that every driver who provided a “deficient sample” was somehow at fault.
Of course, now that we’ve unmasked these fatal errors in the source code, the State will stop using the Intoxilyzer . . . right? If only life were that simple: stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog, explaining just how long the State has known about these errors, and why they plan to keep on using the broken Intoxilyzer, regardless of its known flaws.
Then be sure to check back on Thursday, when we will discuss exactly why Judge Abrams' order should results in the dismissal of almost any case where a "deficient sample" was reported.
Many believed challenges to DWI alcohol urine testing were finished last December after the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a series of decisions. Recent orders issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court, however, provide hope for those accused of DWI based on a urine test.
In State v. Edstrom – a case with a shaky and dubious procedural posture – the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s finding that DWI urine alcohol testing is generally accepted by the scientific community.
The following week the court of appeals held in State v. Tanksley that the trial court erred by denying a Frye hearing in a urine test case, but – based on Edstrom – the court held the error harmless. The court also upheld the district court’s suppression of expert testimony challenging the validity, reliability and accuracy of the urine test result.
Shortly thereafter the court of appeals again affirmed a trial court’s decision prohibiting a driver from offering expert evidence on the reliability of urine testing to measure alcohol concentration in State v. Dixon. The court justified denying the driver his fundamental right to present a complete defense because, “Minnesota recognizes urine testing as a reliable method of measuring alcohol concentration.”
Minnesota Supreme Court Grants Review.
Last month the Minnesota Supreme Court accepted review of State v. Tanksley and State v. Dixon (the parties in Edstrom did not seek review; it appears that had they done so, it likely would have been granted).
In its order granting review of Dixon, the Supreme Court provided insight on at least one of the issues that it felt required review:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the petition of Matt Dixon, Jr., for further review be, and the same is, granted on the issue concerning exclusion of defense evidence challenging the reliability of urine testing, and all proceedings are stayed pending final disposition in State v. Tanksley, No. A10-392. The petition is denied on all remaining issues.
Judges across the state have denied drivers the right to tell the whole story to a jury: that urine testing is junk science. With the Minnesota Supreme Court reviewing the issue on appeal, we hope that will change.
As we said, this Order is over 100 pages long, and will take some time to fully digest. However, a causal reading of the Order makes at least two things clear:
1.Judge Abrams does appear to have ruled that the Intoxilyzer 5000 produces admissible test results.
2.Judge Abrams also appears to have ruled that a “deficient sample” test record is not sufficient evidence to prove that someone “refused by conduct” to submit to a breath test. This has been our claim for years, and we’re happy to see that Judge Abrams agrees.
Stay tuned: we should have a more detailed analysis of this Order, and the likely consequences from the Order, posted soon.
For years now, we’ve blogged about problems with the Intoxilyzer 5000 - and one problem in particular. In a typical scenario, a driver is arrested for DWI and told that they have to submit to a breath test. They try - and try, and try - but the machine will not accept the sample, and ultimately reports a “deficient sample.” These people are charged with the crime of Test Refusal (always a gross-misdemeanor, sometimes a felony).
In court, the arresting officer will usually say that the driver was trying to “fool the machine” by blowing around the straw, blocking the straw with their tongue, or not actually blowing any air. This may be true in some cases, but in our experience, its more likely that the driver WAS trying to give a sample - and the machine still rejected it, for reasons unknown.
The question is “who should the judge trust?” The arresting officer, the driver, or the machine? The answer matters, because if the court chooses to trust the officer, the driver is going to lose; if the judge decides to “trust” the machine, it means that the defense needs to have the opportunity to examine that machine’s source code - and the driver can win.
We recently won a huge case at the Court of Appeals that helps settle the matter. In Hansen v. Commissioner of Public Safety, we convinced the Court that it takes more than the testimony of the arresting officer to convict someone of test refusal - the machine itself needs to be analyzed. This is a potentially huge win for our clients and for anyone else charged with “refusal by conduct.” It means that the Courts are finally beginning to accept what we’ve said all along - the Intoxilyzer is not a perfect machine, and one area where it is prone to failure is when it deems otherwise-valid samples “deficient” for unknown reasons.
At the end of last week, the State finished presenting its evidence in support of the continued use of the Intoxilyzer 5000 to prosecute Minnesota drivers for DWI. All of the evidence has now been submitted to Judge Abrams; it is expected that he will issue an order in early 2011.
It was a long, hard road to get to this point, and far longer than it had to be - if the State had complied with our basic, standard discovery requests years ago, this challenge to the Intoxilyzer would have long since been finished. Instead, the State fought us tooth and nail the entire way: fellow members of the trial team have been to the Supreme Court not once, but twice, demanding access to the software that controls the Intoxilyzer. Our firm spent countless hours litigating the same issue in Federal Court, doing everything we could to ensure that we received actual access to the source code, rather than the sham settlement that was originally reached between the State and CMI.
Once the groundwork had been laid, we pulled together a truly impressive coalition of defense attorneys to help foot the enormous costs that go into a detailed review of an embedded system like the Intoxiliyzer. And now, finally, after years of preparation and litigation, the evidence we’ve been demanding for years has been presented in open court, and we’ve reached the calm before the storm.
We’ll be filing our final written arguments by the end of January. Given the volumes of testimony presented, it’s likely that Judge Abrams won’t issue a final order until April of 2011. It’s a waiting game now, with over 4,000 cases at stake, and we’re optimistic about the outcome.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision this week dealing with urine testing, an issue we’ve blogged about extensively. In State v. Edstrom, the Court said (in dicta) that first void urine testing is generally accepted by forensic toxicologists as a valid measurement for per se intoxication.
Even a casual review of the case, however, demonstrates that this decision carries no real weight. The issues raised in this appeal did not involve “general acceptance” of the urine test (known as the Frye-Mack test); the issue was whether the lower court improperly suppressed the urine test as being “unduly prejudicial” (a standard rule of evidence that is not specific to scientific tests, like Frey-Mack).
Despite the fact that the Frye issue wasn’t even presented or briefed, the court took a walk in the woods and addressed whether evaluation of a urine sample with gas chromatography is generally accepted by the scientific community. Here’s the thing - it is. In fact, in the dozens of cases we have pending around the state we waived the issue of whether the evaluation is generally accepted. Instead, we require the state to meet its burden to demonstrate that the administration of the test is generally accepted.
Because the issue wasn’t properly raised in the lower court, the Edstrom court completely failed to understand the actual issue. The issue, of course, is that every forensic test has two separate but equal components - the collection of the forensic sample, and the subsequent analysis of that forensic sample (as the saying goes, “garbage in = garbage out”). While the Edstrom Court went out of its way to try and rule on an issue that it was not asked to address, it did not even address the full issue in this decision.
It is Minnesota’s method of collecting urine samples that render the results unscientific, not the subsequent analysis. Imagine if every DWI blood draw performed in Minnesota was done after the nurse had used an alcohol swab on the donor’s arm. Would you trust the analysis of any of those samples? Of course not - it’d be downright stupid to do so (especially when its almost as easy to use a non-alcohol swab instead). What’s outrageous is that first void urine testing is a far worse method of sample collection than our alcohol swab example. And that’s not my opinion - that’s the opinion of almost every single peer-reviewed article in existence, alongside the institutional opinions of SOFT, the NRC, NHTSA, and the Borkenstein Institute.
The entire basis for the Court’s determination that first-void urine testing passes the Frye test was one incredibly illogical sentence: “And there is no evidence to suggest that gas headspace chromatography is any less accepted by the scientific community when it is used on a first-void, as opposed to a later-void, urine sample.” Edstrom, page 10.
When we hold a Frye-Mack hearing, we present volumes of evidence that directly contract the above cited one-liner. In fact, no fewer than four major, renowned scientific bodies have made it clear that first void urine testing should not be used to determine a per se level of impairment:
All in all, the Edstrom decision stands for nothing unique, and the holding simply places a rubber stamp on something we already agree about - gas headspace chromatography is a great way to analyze fluid samples. We’ve held numerous Frye hearings where we have made it crystal clear that we are challenging the collection, not the analysis, of the urine samples in question, and despite the holding in Edstrom,we plan on holding even more hearings in the future. We’ll continue to do everything within our power to demonstrate why every forensic scientist (except those employed by the State of Minnesota) reject urine testing.
Today, the members of the trial team for the Source Code Coalition finished presenting our evidence. At stake are over 4,000 DWI criminal and civil cases that rely almost entirely on test results produced by the Intoxilyzer 5000's “source code.”
Once we finished presenting our evidence, the State made a motion for a directed verdict - in effect, claiming that the defense failed to demonstrate that the Intoxilyzer 5000 is an error prone, faulty machine. Judge Abrams quickly ruled in our favor, and we have indeed made a prima facie case that the Intoxilyzer does not produce valid and reliable results in all cases.
This ruling is a great victory for both the Coalition and for all Minnesota drivers, and underscores the fact that this machine is indeed flawed. We’ve said for years that there are problems with this machine, and have repeatedly asked for nothing more than an opportunity to prove our case. Now we’ve done our part, and proved our case- and the State has no choice but to try and rebut the evidence that we’ve presented, because otherwise the Intoxilyzer test results would be deemed inadmissible in court. The State is going to start attempting to meet that burden this afternoon.
We expect the State to spend most of next week trying to overcome the evidence we’ve presented. While the judge hasn’t issued a final ruling in this case (and likely won’t do so for some time) today’s ruling in our favor is a promising sign of things to come.
As members of the trial team and lead counsel for the consolidated challenge against the Intoxilyzer 5000, we’ve spent the last few months working overtime in preparation for the hearing that started on December 8, 2010. We’ve already presented three days of expert testimony, and aren’t even halfway done - but we’ve already presented substantial evidence that calls into question the “scientific results” that come out of this machine.
1) The Intoxilyzer does not, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, accurately report alcohol concentrations. For example, an Intoxilyzer test result of .08 does not actually mean, and cannot be used to show, an alcohol concentration of .08.
2) Numerous scientific safeguards that are supposed to ensure that Intoxilyzer results are valid and reliable simply don’t work. This includes some shocking revelations, including the fact that the Intoxilyzer just flat out cannot properly measure breath volume, despite claims to the contrary. The Intoxilyzer also reports the presence of alcohol when a totally “clean” air sample is provided. Basic safeguards, like the ability to detect interferents (non-alcohol substances that show up as alcohol), the ability to detect radio frequency interference, and various “self-tests” all fail to work as advertised.
3) Essential components of the Intoxilyzer can be disabled without sending up any red flags. This includes heating elements and interferent detectors that are essential to providing consistent, reliable results.
4) The “slope detector” is shaping up to be about as faulty as we expected. Many people are being charged with “test refusal” because source code errors are reporting otherwise valid samples as “deficient.”
Numerous other flaws have been exposed, all leading towards the final question: can we trust this machine to ensure that our roads remain safe, or is it little more than a “random number generator” that is sending innocent people to jail?
This week we expect to get even more information as we examine several experts from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as well as experts in breath testing from other States. Stay tuned!
The steady progress of science has plenty of consequences for anyone arrested for DWI - and not just regarding the test the State performs to determine your level of intoxication. Before the government can even test your blood, breath or urine, a police officer needs to have probable cause to arrest you.
Probable cause is usually determined by observations of the officer and performance on field sobriety tests. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that defense attorneys have little to go on other than what the police officer chooses to write in their after-the-fact police report. Luckily, due to advances in technology, we’re seeing more and more video evidence taken at the scene of the stop.
We always request all the audio and video evidence collected by the government whenever we represent a client charged with a DWI. Review of that evidence can take what appeared to be a difficult case and turn it into a slam-dunk. Review of any video evidence provides a good defense attorney with many opportunities to win a case:
- Were you really “slurring your speech” or “stumbling” (every police report I’ve read claims as much)
-Did the officer properly and accurately perform the three Standard Field Sobriety Tests (you’d honestly be shocked at how many officers fail on this point, and how often this can lead to an outright dismissal of your charges)
-Did the officer actually provide you with an opportunity to consult with an attorney?
We look forward to the day when every officer is wearing a video camera - it provides so many additional opportunities to scrutinize the arrest process, and can in turn lead to a dismissal of all charges.
After years of carefully crafted discovery requests, and a lengthy lawsuit in Federal Court, the source code to the Intoxilyzer 5000EN was finally released to the experts hired by the Source Code Coalition.
The Supreme Court ordered a state-wide consolidated hearing be held on the validity and reliability of the Intoxilyzer. That hearing is scheduled for December 8, 2010 before the Honorable Judge Abrams, district court judge for the First Judicial District.
As a member of the trial team and as lead counsel for this complex and controversial hearing, we’ve been working overtime to prepare all of our experts and exhibits for what is bound to be an eye-opening hearing. It is expected that Judge Abrams will issue a final decision on this matter in early 2011. It is also likely that his decision will be appealed by at least one of the parties to the consolidated case, creating considerable uncertainty in what the future status of the Intoxilyzer will be.
Our “Freedom Through Independence” series chronicled our ability to use retested samples to win DWI cases for our clients. Since then, the government has repeatedly thrown in the towel and dismissed our DWI cases whenever our retest has contradicted the state’s alcohol test result. After publishing our blog series, more and more lawyers followed our advice and began retesting DWI blood and urine samples.
As a result, the state faced many more cases where the state’s DWI test results were contested, forcing the government to change its tactics. Now, the government is actually trying to fight back in cases where our independent retest refutes the state’s own test.
The Judge Rules: Two Different Test Results = State Loss
The state is now finding out the hard way that if they try to fight against retested samples, the end result is no different than if it had just dismissed its case from the outset. Last week a judge rendered the first written decision in years on this issue, and clearly held that if a retested sample produces different results than the state’s test, the state is going to lose.
In that case, the driver submitted to a urine sample after being arrested for DWI. The officer collected the sample, and submitted it to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ("BCA") for analysis. The BCA’s analysis resulted in an alcohol concentration of 0.08.
Several months after the BCA performed its analysis, the driver’s frozen sample was independently analyzed by Regions Hospital. Regions Hospital’s analysis resulted in an alcohol concentration of .06. The difference between .08 and .06 is huge, for two reasons. First, a difference of .02 between the samples proves that urine testing fails one of the main tenets of the scientific method: the ability to consistently reproduce statistically reliable results. Second, one test is above the legal limit, while the other is clearly below that limit.
A nervous BCA employee testified, offering several possible explanations for the dramatically different test results:
1) A difference in testing methods between the BCA and Regions Hospital (The BCA does not contest Regions Hospital’s independent lab results, and in fact has approved its methods and procedures for testing urine for alcohol concentration.)
3) An improper seal on the sample container permitted ethanol to escape the container.
All these “explanations” make the BCA look bad, but the driver’s attorney noted a fourth, even more troubling possibility; that the analysis performed by the BCA was inaccurate and the analysis performed by Regions Hospital was accurate.
The judge wrote in his order:
In this case the Court has been presented with two equally valid samples with disparate results. One result supports the revocation of the Petitioner's license while the other does not.
The Commissioner, however, bears the burden of proving it is more likely than not that the Petitioner was operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The evidence presented is not sufficient to overcome this burden. It is equally possible the Petitioner had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or 0.06767. The Commissioner has therefore failed to prove the requisite alcohol concentration justifying revocation of the Petitioner's license.
The judge correctly ordered the government reinstate the driver’s license and remove any reference to the license revocation from his driving record.
This case raises as many questions as it answers. Had this been a criminal case, what would a jury have decided? We think that a court should not even permit the state to present this evidence to a jury, since no reasonable juror could find the state could meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
This raises other questions as well, such as “how long will the BCA continue to freeze DWI test samples after testing?” “What are the differences between the BCA and Regions’ testing methods?” and “Whose testing method is more accurate?”
And of course, all of these questions lead directly to the one question I’ve been asking for years. It’s a simple question, and yet it has gone unanswered for far too long.
Why does our state remain as one of the only places in the world that still use urine testing?
Congratulations to defense attorney, Ed Cohen, for his work against the Office of the Attorney General in the implied consent case.
As we blogged about in part one of this three-part series on bail arguments, most Minnesota judges think that they are required by law to set bail in DWI cases. It turns out that the majority of people arrested for DWI are supposedly required to pay the State thousands of dollars for the privilege of being allowed to go home, go back to work, see their families, and try to bring some semblance of normalcy to their lives.
Generally, bail serves an important purpose. It ensures that criminal defendants who may be likely to flee prosecution have an incentive to show up for court. However, determining who is and is not likely to flee is a very fact specific inquiry, and can differ from person to person. Whether a specific person is a risk to “public safety” is another reason to require bail - another factor that depends on the character and background of each individual.
One purpose bail can not serve is to “punish” someone before trial. Bail only exists to ensure that defendant’s appear in court, while allowing them to continue to lead their lives until their court case is resolved. This is why every Minnesotan has a constitutional right under Article 1, Section 7 to post bail, and cannot be held “without bail.”
This is one of two reasons why Minnesota’s DWI Bail Statute is unconstitutional. It assumes that every person arrested for DWI is a flight risk, and automatically requires bail for all but some types of first time offenders. For example, if you are arrested for DWI and have one prior offense within the past ten years, an alcohol concentration above a .20, or someone in your vehicle under the age of 16, the law states that you must post $12,000 bail in order to be released without other conditions. It is absurd to assume that anyone who fits into these categories is automatically a flight risk, and then arbitrarily stating that $12,000 will eliminate the risk of flight.
The other reason why this statute is unconstitutional is that the legislature simply doesn’t have the authority to pass this type of law - our Constitution is one that is based upon the separation of powers. Bail is an area that is constitutionally delegated to the judicial branch; thus, regulation of bail can be done through the judicially-approved Rules of Criminal Procedure, but not through legislatively passed statutes. The Rules of Criminal Procedure make it clear that a judge should presume each defendant can be trusted to appear, and does not need bail assigned. The legislature simply does not have the power under our Constitution to pass a law that overrides that presumption and replaces it with the command that every defendant post bail.
Unless there is a strategic reason not to, we raise these arguments at every bail hearing. That bail hearing is often our first chance to “go to bat” for our clients, and is our only opportunity to convince the court not to punish our client with excessive and unnecessary bail while they are still presumed innocent.
Up next in our three part bail series: Why Minnesota’s DWI bail statute simply doesn’t apply in most cases - regardless of whether it is actually constitutional or not.
I’ve blogged about the unscientific nature of DWI urine testing for years and years. Being at the forefront of defense challenges to urine testing has brought numerous successes for our clients, but we’ve never had a Minnesota Appellate court rule with finality that urine tests are inadmissible. Change is in the air, however, and the ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday will likely change our position for the better.
DWI Urine Testing: Rejected by Scientists
The primary issue with urine tests is that the scientific community simply does not accept urine testing in DWI cases as a valid means of determining alcohol concentration. Most states don’t use it at all. Fewer than a dozen periodically use the method, but don’t test the “first void.” It appears Minnesota stands alone as the only state to utilize solely “first void” testing.
A brief refresher for those new to our blog: Alcohol collects in the bladder and does not “burn off” like alcohol in the blood or breath. Instead, it remains in the bladder until voided. Without voiding the bladder and waiting 20-30 minutes before collecting a “second void,” there is no relationship between the amount of alcohol in the urine and the amount of alcohol in the blood. In fact, Minnesota BCA scientists concede that under “first void” testing, a person may have no alcohol in the blood, but be over the legal limit by urine.
Under Minnesota law, before a scientific method or test can be admitted as evidence, a judge must find it to be “generally accepted by the relevant scientific community.” The Minnesota Supreme Court held in 2002 (State v. Roman Nose) that trial courts must grant motions for a Frye hearing unless and until the Supreme Court upholds a lower court finding of general acceptance for the specific scientific testing or method (for those unfamiliar with the Frye-Mack standard, check out our previous post).
We continually present scholarly articles, learned treatises and expert opinion from forensic toxicologists proving that urine testing is not “generally accepted in the scientific community.” If the judge listens to the evidence, this can and will lead to suppression of the test result. However, because the State has no real evidence supporting the use of urine tests, they use a different argument altogether - they try to claim that the Frye-Mack “general acceptance” test doesn’t even apply to urine tests, so there is no need to even prove general acceptance. Since urine testing for alcohol concentration was implemented nearly a century ago, many courts have rejected our motion for a Frye hearing simply because they believed that urine testing is not a “novel” test, and doesn’t need to be scrutinized. That’s about to change . . .
Minnesota Supreme Court Clarifies When Courts are Required to hold Frye Hearings
The Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday that rejected the State’s “it’s not novel science if it’s old science” argument this week in State v. Hull.
In State v. Hull, the jury found Jeremy Hull guilty of murder. Before the trial, the defense challenged whether fingerprint evidence and handwriting analysis was admissible under the Frye “general acceptance” standard. The trial court refused to hold a Frye-Mack hearing on the scientific validity of the fingerprint evidence, concluding (without reviewing any evidence) that “fingerprints have been generally accepted as scientifically reliable for a long time.” Similarly, it denied the motion on the handwriting analysis by summarily finding, it too, is generally accepted, again without a hearing.
Analyzing whether the trial court correctly rejected a defense motion for a Frye hearing of fingerprint evidence, Justice Paul Anderson wrote,
“[L]engthy use of a method by law enforcement, and even lengthy unquestioning acceptance by courts, does not [by itself] exempt expert evidence from scrutiny under the first prong of Frye-Mack….”
Justice Anderson also cited with approval a report issued by the National Research Counsel of the National Academies (NRC), which stated, “In a number of forensic science disciplines, forensic science professionals have yet to establish either the validity of their approach or the accuracy of their conclusions, and the courts have been utterly ineffective in addressing this problem.”
Justice Meyer filed a concurring opinion, “because [precisely defining the Frye-Mack standard] has wide-ranging implications for future cases, we do a disservice to district courts and the administration of criminal justice in this state by declining to decide the issue on its merits” (she said this because the majority refused to actually state a rule, holding that the evidence against Hull was so overwhelming so as to make the issue irrelevant).
Justice Meyer went on to state, “The NRC Report states in no uncertain terms that the state and federal courts’ longstanding acceptance of traditional forensic science expert opinions is simply not supported by good science.”
She concluded by noting that, “in order to present expert conclusions based on these methods to a jury, the proponent of the evidence must first meet its burden under the first prong of Frye-Mack to show that its forensic evidence methods produce accurate and reliable results. The district court erred in this case when it relieved the State of that burden.” (Emphasis added).
“But We’ve Always Done It That Way” Falls Short
The Court’s message is crystal clear: The State can no longer rely on the “long-standing use” of a scientific method to prevent a Frye hearing. Longevity alone is insufficient; the State can’t be permitted to “grandfather” junk science past the rigorous safeguards of the Frye-Mack test. Instead, the Supreme Court has again made it clear that the government must prove in a Frye hearing that a test if generally accepted by the relevant scientific community.
So how does this affect urine testing? Many courts have succumbed to prosecutors’ argument, “But we’ve always done it that way” in denying motions for a Frye hearing. Thanks to the Hull case, I’m hoping this will also bring an end to another government adage, “Good enough for government work” which has allowed urine testing to be used against innocent citizens for years.
The Chief Justice for the Supreme Court penned an incredibly articulate and devastating attack against Minnesota’s test refusal law today. In the case of State v. Larson, the Court held that:
"Larson also argues that his due process right to a fair trial was violated because the State was allowed to introduce evidence that he had refused to submit to voluntary . . . testing, and that the State used his refusal as evidence of his guilt. It is uncontested that Larson refused to allow the police to take a . . . sample . . . until the police produced a warrant. At trial, the district court ruled, over Larson’s objection, that Larson’s refusal to submit voluntarily to . . . testing could come before the jury. The court acknowledged that, while Larson “had that right to refuse to cooperate,” he did not see that “any constitutional rights of [Larson’s] are violated by that fact being told to the jury.” This ruling was erroneous. See Jones, 753 N.W.2d at 687 (“It is a violation of the defendant’s right to due process for a prosecutor to comment on a defendant’s failure to consent to a warrantless search.”)." (Emphasis added)
There is one problem: the above quote doesn’t refer to blood, urine, or breath samples for alcohol concentration - it refers to blood samples for DNA testing. Thus, the legal conclusion that our current test refusal law is unconstitutional can be craftily avoided by simply invoking the DWI exception to the Constitution.
We’ll be bringing the Larson case to the attention of every judge that is presiding over a test refusal case, and it will be very, very interesting to see how they can “distinguish” (legalese for “ignore) this case from the line of cases mysteriously holding that charging someone for test refusal is constitutional.
One problem that most people arrested for DWI will quickly encounter is that Minnesota judges think that they are required to set bail in DWI cases. This means that before you are found guilty - sometimes before you even appear in court - the State will require to you pay them for the privilege of being allowed to go home, go back to work, see your family, etc. So much for “innocent until proven guilty!”
Bail in a DWI case can range up to $12,000 (and can reach $100,000 or more in felony DWI cases). This can be an incredible financial burden for the average citizen, which is why you have the option to pay a bail bondsman. A good bail bondsman will charge you about 10% of the bail amount (e.g. if your bail was set at $6,000, you would pay about $600), and allow you to be on your way - as long as you promise to make all future court appearances.
If you don’t think you can afford bail, there is a second option that is often made available that appears like a good idea, but is actually far inferior to posting bail. Many judges will set bail, and as an alternative order that you go on “pre-trial monitoring.” This typically means that you are locked into an ankle-bracelet to ensure that you don’t use alcohol for the duration of your criminal case. What isn’t made clear to you is that you have to pay for the “privilege” of having this ankle bracelet - typically $10 - $15 per day. Thus, after 60 days, you’ll have paid at least $600; if your case takes longer than four months (very typical) you will have already “paid” the maximum bail amount of $1,200 . . . and you’ll still be wearing that ankle bracelet. And be careful - if the ankle bracelet even thinks you’ve consumed alcohol, it’ll report you, and you’ll end up facing an arrest warrant in the near future.
Whenever it is financially possible, we advise all of our clients to post bail rather than shackle themselves to an ankle bracelet. Posting bail is almost always cheaper in the long run, and you don’t have to worry about false positive readings or other errors that can put you back in jail.
Of course, being a good attorney doesn’t just mean giving advice, it means knowing how to fight for our clients rights. It’s always better to convince a judge not to order any bail at all, rather than have to decide between the lesser of two evils. Our next post will discuss some of the arguments we’ve successfully used in court to make sure that our clients were not saddled with expensive pre-trial bail amounts - the fact that Minnesota’s bail statute is unconstitutional, and the added fact that judges incorrectly apply the statute in a vast majority of cases where it doesn’t even apply.
Today the Court of Appeals issued a decision that clarifies the current scope of Minnesota’s vehicle registration laws. In the case of State v. Carter, the Court held that it is illegal to drive a vehicle on Minnesota roads unless you have renewed your registration - and that you must renew your registration by the end of the month that it expires in.
The confusion arises from the fact that Minnesota law appears to give drivers a ten-day “grace period” to renew their license tabs. The average person, when reading this statute, would likely think that if their tabs expire at the end of August, they would actually have until September 10 to actually renew their registration.
The Court made it clear that this is not the case. The ten-day “grace period” only allows drivers extra time to display the tabs they already purchased. You still have to buy your new tabs by the end of the month that they expire in. If you’ve been putting off renewing your tabs because you thought you had until the 10th of the next month to do so, think again, and then renew your tabs. If you don’t, you’re just giving law enforcement one more reason to pull you over.
Among the many decisions recently issued by the Minnesota Court of Appeals was the troubling case of Van Note v. 2007 Pontiac, A09-2311. This case is a perfect example of why our vehicle forfeiture laws are so absurd, and why the first thing you need to do when charged with a DWI is find a knowledgeable attorney.
In the Van Note case, the driver was arrested for 2nd degree DWI while driving his girlfriend’s vehicle. The driver was not on the title . . . the vehicle was not registered in his name . . . and yet the State immediately seized the vehicle for forfeiture.
The State made a half-hearted effort to notify the actual owner (the driver’s girlfriend) that it had every intention of keeping her 2007 Pontiac G6 (with a bluebook value well over $10,000). Eventually, the innocent owner tried to convince the court to return her vehicle by filing a petition for review. However, because the girlfriend of the driver convicted of a DWI didn’t file the appropriate paperwork within the correct period of time, the Court of Appeals basically told her “tough luck.”
So, because this innocent vehicle owner did not understand the complex laws surrounding vehicle forfeiture, the State gets to sell her vehicle for profit, even though the law requires the State to return the vehicle to her!
This type of situation happens far too often. In the traumatic and often shame-filled period following a DWI arrest, many people do not take the immediate steps they need to in order to preserve their rights. Because we work every day hammering the State on all aspects of a DWI case, we would have immediately recognized that the innocent owner defense applied, and filed a prompt petition for review. In the end, our client should have gotten her vehicle back. Instead, she’s in the market for a new vehicle . . . and out a lot of money.
One Hennepin County judge wrote in a source code order that it may be malpractice for a lawyer not to seek breath test software. That remains to be seen and depends primarily on the outcome of our experts' analysis. Practically speaking, however, the source code coalition has prepared matters to point where it requires little effort from attorneys to take advantage of this issue.
The upside is obvious -- drivers' DWI breath tests could be thrown out. There is little down side -- a minimal contribution from each lawyer and a delay necessitated by the review.
So the question is: is your lawyer a member of the Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code Coalition.
If not, get another lawyer.
I've listed of all members below as of today. In addition to this, all state public defender cases are included.
A special thanks goes to Pennsylvania attorney, Justin McShane of the McShane Firm, LLC. Although Justin represents none of the Minnesota litigants, he generously donated a hefty sum in an effort to support the cause. Justin, recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the country, probably has more scientific knowledge in the criminal defense arena than any other lawyer.
Once others learn of Justin McShane's leadership here, other lawyers from around the country will soon follow his lead with their kind contributions.
Today, Judge Abrams issued an order extending the timeline for the consolidated Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000 source code cases. In his order, the judge set the final hearing to start on December 18, 2010.
The source code coalition requested this extension about a month ago, due to delays caused by CMI, the manufacturer of the breath test machine. Most troubling was the fact that CMI recently notified the Source Code Coalition that it had provided us with the “wrong” source code. Instead of reviewing the actual source code used in Minnesota, coalition experts had been reviewing different code for nearly two months at CMI’s headquarters in Owensboro, Kentucky.
If this wasn’t absurd enough, our experts also discovered the state had improperly “burned” the source code onto the Intoxilyzers’ microprocessors. It appears that in its haste to convict Minnesota drivers, government scientists included unintended machine code on the chips which govern the machines’ testing of Minnesota drivers. Our experts now have the added task of determining if and how this unintended code affects the validity, reliability and accuracy of DWI breath tests – tests dating all the way back to 2004.
To date, nearly 3,000 DWI breath test cases have been consolidated by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Some expect that number to rise to more than 5,000 cases before the end of the year.
If the State replaces the Intoxilyzer 5000 with the Datamaster, doesn't this start everything all over again? Requesting the source code. Why doesn't the State just eliminate the breath test machines altogether and strickly go with blood tests?
Attorney Dan Koewler responds:
Scientifically, it would make perfect sense to discard breath testing altogether, and rely strictly on blood sample testing. Breath testing has numerous problems completely independent of possible software errors. That being said, there is no way that the State would discard such an “easy” test method just because of a few measly scientific concerns. Remember, the State measures its success rate by how many convictions it can rack up, and it wants those convictions as fast as possible.
Additionally, National Patent (the manufacturer of the Datamaster) is a drastically different creature than CMI (the manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer). Datamaster has a track record of actually working with defense attorneys, rather than stonewalling them. In fact, we already know that their source code is available – for about $250, they’ll put the code on a disk and send it directly to us. Compare that attitude with CMI, where it took four years of litigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get a chance for our experts review some of the source code, in a remote location, under some pretty ridiculous terms.
Given National Patent’s history of being rather transparent, there likely won’t be much to gain by a protracted source code challenge. The real challenges will remain with how the State chooses to implement the Datamaster; our State has spent years pretending that its breath test machines were flawless, with the full support of CMI. With National Patent, I expect the State will have to find better explanations for its failure to have a regular maintenance schedule for its machines, among numerous other scientific safeguards that have been ignored with the use of the Intoxilyzer.
We’re defense attorneys – its we do, and what we love. I know that there will be numerous challenges to the Datamaster’s integrity, but at this point, I’m just not sure that source code challenges will be one of them.
Yesterday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an incredibly troubling decision in the case of State v. McIlraith. In that case, the defendant was arrested for boating while intoxicated. He took an Intoxilyzer test that reported an alcohol concentration over a .08. He immediately attempted to exercise his right to have an independent test (we’ve won numerous cases after having our clients obtain an independent test). Six hours after being arrested, the defendant was finally allowed to submit a urine sample for independent analysis.
The defendant’s attorney successfully suppressed the Intoxilyzer test result, which usually results in a victory. However, the State made a motion to use the Defendant’s own independent test against him! The judge agreed that this was legal, and the Defendant suddenly found himself being prosecuted by evidence that he himself had obtained.
There is a lot about this case that is troubling. I won’t even get into the absurdity of convicting someone of boating above a .08 alcohol concentration based on a urine test taken six hours after driving. What I do want to point out is that the Court, in upholding the admission of a defendant’s independent test against the defendant, has turned independent testing into a double-edged sword.
We routinely tell all our clients to get an independent test - sometimes, it’s the only way to challenge the validity and reliability of the “State’s test.” However, with this new ruling, the Court has made it acceptable for the State to use our own investigative work against our own clients. Now, if we try to use an independent test result to question the validity of the State’s test, the State gets a second bite at the apple. This seems to directly violate all sorts of bedrock Due Process principles: the right to present a complete defense, attorney-client privilege, the statutory right to obtain an independent test, and half a dozen others. Again, a very disturbing decision.
I have it on good authority that the attorney involved has every intention of appealing this decision, and I sincerely hope that the Supreme Court corrects this manifest error. In the meantime, the status of independent tests is very much up in the air.
The State has requested discovery of all independent alcohol tests taken in conjunction with Intoxilyer tests at issue in the consolidated source code matter.
While the coalition opposes this request, we will need them in the event Judge Abrams orders the coalition to turn them over to the state as part of either the consolidated civil implied consent cases or the consolidated criminal cases.
Please send any independent test results taken in your cases and the corresponding Intoxilyzer test result to Liason Counsel Lee Orwig, by email, fax or mail:
Today is the first blog in a two-part series regarding Minnesota’s forfeiture laws. As any polished attorney knows, most DWI arrests included numerous “collateral” punishments. You will lose your license; you may become ineligible for car insurance; you may even lose your job. However, what few people know is that it’s also likely that the State is going to seize your car and sell it for profit.
These “vehicle forfeitures” aren’t just reserved for the five-time repeat offenders that make the news. In fact, even a first time DWI arrest can result in vehicle forfeiture . . .
Example: you and your significant other are driving to the babysitter’s after going out for dinner with friends. You had two glasses of wine with your meal, but don’t feel the slightest bit tipsy. You pick up your 8 year old child, and head for home. However, before you get there, the police pull you over for “weaving within your own lane.”
The officer asks if you had anything to drink, and you honestly answer “yes.” (It’s not a crime to drink and then drive in Minnesota - it’s only a crime to be impaired). You are told to step out of your car and perform some field sobriety tests. You do fine, but the officer thinks otherwise, and arrests you for DWI - in front of your family.
You get taken down to the police station and told that you need to submit to a breath test on the Intoxilyzer 5000. You’re nervous, but at the same time anxious to pass the test and rejoin your family. However, no matter how hard you blow, that Intoxilyzer won’t “accept” your sample. The officer is yelling in your ear to “blow harder” but no matter what you do, the machine keeps calling your sample “deficient.” After four minutes, the officer tells you that he’s going to charge you with “refusal to test.”
You can cry, plead and beg at this point, but the fact is that you are going to be charged with a crime - and not just any old crime - an enhanced crime. Because you had someone under the age of 16 inside your vehicle, and because you “refused” to test, you are going to be charged with a gross misdemeanor, 2nd degree DWI.
And woe to someone who has even one DWI conviction already on their record. With one conviction on your record, it’s very easy for a DWI arrest to turn into a situation where the State is going to sell your car for profit.
Now, wait. The police officer that chose to arrest you can take your car, immediately, and can then sell that car for profit before you even get to complain to a judge? That’s right . . . although if you have a good attorney in your corner, you can still get your car back.
Be sure to check back Monday for an explanation of what you can do to protect your rights to your vehicle.
Earlier this year Judge Abrams issued his case management order for the review of the Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000. Among other deadlines, he set July 1 as the due date to provide the government with our experts’ report of our source code review.
Last week the source code coalition brought a motion to extend the timelines set by the court. We asked for a three month extension given the circumstances. The Court responded by extending these timelines by a little more than one month. I can’t help but compare this deadline with the current fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico.
While I’m not our president’s number one fan, I empathize with his position. He did not cause the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but many look to him to stop the oil and limit the scope of this disaster. Given a choice, I’m sure that everyone would prefer that this oil leak was just offshore, instead of under 5,000 feet of water, and that those responsible for causing the problem would solve it themselves before anyone innocent is harmed.
Likewise, it was the state and CMI who have repeatedly dragged their feet and interfered with our software review. It was the state and CMI that mandated that we travel to Kentucky to review the software, instead of reviewing it from established computer forensics laboratories. Yet, Judge Abrams is expected to speed this whole review process along, meaning that we are expected to inspect, analyze and present a full report in less than two months! I feel like we are trying to plug a leaking oil well miles below the surface of the gulf - and what’s worse, it’s a leak that wewarned everyone about years ago!
“Need for Speed?”
This six week extension of the deadline for our experts to finish their report is already causing serious problems, and simply isn’t enough time to properly analyze a complex piece of ancient software. What makes this “need for speed” especially odd is the fact that the State has been dragging its feet for years on any issues regarding the source code!
I “led the charge” against the Intoxilyzer, and was one of the first attorneys in Minnesota to ask the state to produce the source code. This was back in 2006 - over four years ago - and sadly, I have a number of cases that have been consolidated dating all the way back to then.
The Minnesota Supreme Court issued Underdahl I in 2007, holding that Minnesota owned the source code and the state is required to provide it. As early as then, the state acknowledged it could sue CMI for access to the source code, but it did nothing until March, 2008. It was then, over two years after I made my first request, that the state filed a law suit against CMI. And even then, while the state outwardly claimed that it was suing to obtain the software, it was obvious the suit was primarily designed to keep it from us.
With barely a shot fired in the litigation, the state secretly (and hastily!) settled a second time with CMI in June, 2009. We objected to this settlement - we claimed that it rendered source code review too costly, too time consuming, and too inefficient. Nevertheless, Federal Judge Frank approved the settlement over our objection on July 16, 2009. Thus, over three years from the first request for the source code, the state finally crafted a half-cocked method of analyzing this problematic software.
Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) this interesting settlement was simply the starting point for more and more delay . . .
Relying upon the terms of the settlement reached between the State and CMI, the breath test machine’s manufacturer delayed analysis of the software for months. It boasted about how it would provide a “hard copy” of the source code . . . and then it blacked out large portions of the material throughout the book.
Our experts had to cancel flights to Owensboro, Kentucky on several occasions. We were forced to bring motions in federal court to get greater access to the code, made agreements which CMI breached, and had to bring even more motions. All of this occurred months and months after the State had reached its secretive settlement with CMI, and years after the State was first asked to disclose the source code.
10,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Our experts finally - finally! - got access for the first time on May 11, 2010. Since then, they have worked diligently to get the job done, despite onerous conditions. They must perform review at CMI’s headquarters in Kentucky, under the constant supervision of CMI security. Hours are limited to Monday to Friday, 8:30-4:30. Each day, ½ hour is wasted for “check-in.” Additional time is wasted setting up and tearing down their equipment. Although it sounds like an exaggeration, our experts (who otherwise spend their time reviewing software on behalf of such clients as the U.S. Navy) assure us that these work conditions make no sense, and that their job has gone from a simple analysis to one that is more like capping an oil leak at the bottom of the ocean - a new, strange, and incredibly difficult experience.
This is the history behind our request for an additional three months to analyze the source code and issue a report. It is a history full of delay tactics, hidden agendas and double-speak. Yet here, now that we’ve finally pushed the State long enough and hard enough to actually provide us with some access to the source code, they are objecting to our request for more time, saying we’ve had plenty!
We are at a critical stage. After almost half a decade of motions, arguments and appeals, we are finally on the threshold of proving what we’ve always known to be the case: there are serious problems with the Intoxilyzer 5000 that is used in Minnesota. Drivers and their families have the right to ensure the black box accuser works as designed. Otherwise, we will blindly trust this Intoxilyzer and risk more erroneous convictions.
The State did everything it could to prevent us from reviewing this software. Then it was CMI’s turn to prevent analysis of the source code. Now, due to overly-restrictive scheduling orders (prompted by the State) our careful analysis is being rushed to a sudden conclusion. It almost seems like the State is being rewarded for dragging its feet for so long.
Last week we published our blog series demonstrating how independent testing and independent analysis of the state’s blood and urine samples may help drivers beat DWI urine or DUI blood tests. After we concluded the series, we ran into an interesting wrinkle when we sought to have two urine samples independently analyzed.
The prosecutor informed us the government had destroyed the urine samples!
I believe the state has a duty to retain such critical evidence until the case has concluded. It should not destroy any blood or urine test samples unless and until the driver has actual knowledge the state intends to destroy the sample and waives the right to examination.
In response, we amended our motions to suppress admission of the test results and to dismiss the DWI charges. We filed the following motions:
1) Dismissing the Complaint based on the State’s destruction of the evidence. Specifically, admission of the urine test report violates Defendant’s constitutional rights to Confrontation, pursuant to Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S. Ct. 1354 (2004), because the state intentionally destroyed the evidence, thereby denying Defendant the opportunity to independently inspect, evaluate and test his alleged urine sample;
2) Dismissing the Complaint based on the State’s destruction of the evidence. Specifically, admission of the urine test report violates Defendant’s constitutional rights to Due Process, pursuant to California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479, 104 S. Ct. 2528 (1984), because the state intentionally destroyed the evidence, thereby denying Defendant the opportunity to independently inspect, evaluate and test his alleged blood sample;
3) The State has violated the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure and Defendant’s Due Process rights by failing to provide Defendant with his blood sample as part of his requested discovery;
4) The law of spoilation of evidence is inconsistent with the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure and cannot be applied in light of the rights of Defendant to Due Process and Confrontation; and
5) Dismissing the charges against Defendant as the State’s destruction of Defendant’s urine sample impermissibly shifts the burden of persuasion onto Defendant for a key element of the offenses with which he is charged.
A judge had previously ruled in our favor when presented with these issues. In a DWI case we brought to jury last July, the judge had ordered the blood test suppressed because the state had destroyed the blood sample. We had challenged admissibility based our client’s right to confrontation, among other things.
In his order, the judge explained why due process required him to suppress the state’s evidence:
Due process requires that a criminal defendant have the same access to information as the State when the State offers the result of a scientific test. The State did not give Defendant an opportunity to stop destruction of this evidence. If the State offers into evidence the blood-test report, the State must also call the person who prepared the blood-test report, and a person who can testify as to the chain of custody. Without access to the blood sample, Sickmann is denied the right granted in the rules of discovery to reproduce the state's test results. The reproducibility of scientific test results is an important factor when considering the reliability of the test results.
The judge also explained why the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause requires suppression:
The BCA's policy of destroying the blood or urine sample, therefore, eliminates [Defendant]'s ability to reproduce the blood test results and limits the methods available to him to challenge the reliability of those results. The scope of the [Defendant]'s cross-examination of the witnesses who prepared the test report is unconstitutionally limited.
The Sixth Amendment's guarantee that an accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted by his accusers is vindicated only upon effective and adequate cross-examination of those witnesses. The BCA's policy of destroying the blood sample after a predetermined period of time renders [Defendant]'s opportunity to cross-examine the state's witnesses inadequate and ineffective. Because [Defendant]'s cross-examination of the witnesses who prepared the blood test report is inadequate and ineffective in light of his inability to reproduce the results, his rights under the Confrontation Clause are violated and this violation precludes admission of the blood test report.
Accordingly, this Court must conclude that at subsequent trial of this matter, the blood test report of the BCA is inadmissible.
We will see if other judges understand the constitution as Judge A.P.
Minnesota uses three types of chemical test to investigate DWI cases. There are breath tests on the Intoxilyzer 5000EN. Then Minnesota has its unique take on urine testing. The third type of test is the blood test; a type of test used in nearly every state for DWI prosecutions and considered the “gold standard” with respect to value as evidence.
Despite the massive problems with the Intoxilyzer, and the overwhelming criticism of its urine testing regime, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill and signed into law by Governor Pawlenty, seriously undermining its last, best chance at equitably enforcing our DWI laws. Starting July 1, 2010, it appears that almost anyone a police officer chooses can draw a driver’s blood - not just registered nurses, EMTs, and the other specifically listed persons currently authorized by statute. The law protects them from civil suit if they were to cause infection or other injury.
This is troubling for numerous reasons, the least of which is the fact that blood draws, if improperly performed, can be painful, traumatic, and can transfer infectious diseases. Moreover, the current law is likely unconstitutional.
Currently, blood tests for evidentiary purposes are deemed constitutional - but not by much. In the Supreme Court case that first authorized these types of blood draws, the Court clearly explained that such a test is only reasonable where it is “taken by a physician in a hospital environment according to accepted medical practices. We are thus not presented with the serious questions that would arise is a search . . . were made by other than medical personnel or in other than a medical environment.”
Police officers with limited training have routinely drawn blood in Cottage Grove, Woodbury and a few other jurisdictions. We expect that to expand. Soon, that Supreme Court’s warning 45 years ago will be ignored, at least in Minnesota. The Legislature just legalized a practice that has opened the door to roadside blood tests by officers. Instead of blood drawn “in a hospital environment according to accepted medical practices,” we fully expect cops to routinely suck drivers’ blood on the hood of a filthy squad car at the side of the road. Rest assured, we plan on fighting this law at the first available opportunity.
At Ramsay Results, part of our job is to keep current on the latest changes in the law, so that we can effectively represent our clients. If you’re arrested for a DWI - especially if the arrest involves a blood test - contact Ramsay Law Firm immediately.
As we have blogged before, urine testing is not a scientifically accepted method of determining a driver’s alcohol concentration in a DUI case. Despite this fact, more police agencies are using urine testing to determine drivers' alcohol concentration.
Our law firm continues to be very successful attacking urine tests. This month prosecutors agreed to reduce numerous urine cases to lesser offenses, eliminating mandatory jail sentences. In a number of instances, the prosecutors voluntarily dismissed the DWI charges entirely.
Judges also recognize the unscientific nature of urine tests. In one case this month, the state charged my client with a Gross Misdemeanor DWI after his urine test revealed an alcohol concentration of .22. I asked the judge to throw out the urine test result. The state objected. The officer had collected the urine sample two hours and five minutes after the stop. While acknowledging this, the state claimed that it could use “retrograde extrapolation” to prove my client had an alcohol concentration over the limit within two hours. The judge disagreed.
Urine has many limitations, one of which is that it has no burn-off rate – as does breath and blood. At the suppression hearing, the state toxicologist admitted that no reputable scientist could use a urine test result to extrapolate one’s alcohol concentration at an earlier point in time. Without the ability to tie the .22 urine test to any one point in time, the court ruled the alcohol test result irrelevant and suppressed the urine test.
With no alcohol test, the prosecutor dropped the DWI charges and my client pleaded to a careless driving. Because we had prevailed in the civil implied consent hearing, the careless was not alcohol related.
We will expose the unscientific nature of urine testing as long as police use urine testing to take away drivers’ licenses and convict them of crimes. We continue to develop new ideas to attack urine and other alcohol tests. Call us immediately if you’ve been charged with a DWI.
For years, Minnesota law has permitted the State to seize the vehicles of some arrested for DWI, sell them off, and keep the proceeds. This means that many of our clients come to us concerned not only about jail time, or loss of their driver’s license, but also worried about the fact that the State is trying to permanently deprive them of their car, their SUV, their boat, or whatever motor vehicle they were operating when they were arrested.
There are serious concerns to be raised whenever the State gets into the business of seizing a person’s private property for its own gain. When the police department and the prosecutor get to divide up the proceeds from selling off forfeited vehicles used by drunk drivers, the procedure starts to look less like it’s about public safety and more like its all about generating revenue. However, what makes DWI forfeitures so bad – so bad that they are unconstitutional – is the fact that the police get to seize the vehicle immediately . . . and then completely prevent the driver from contesting the seizure in front of a judge. See Policing for Profit for more on forfeiture abuse.
The current forfeiture law does not permit a driver to contest the seizure of his vehicle until after his criminal case has been resolved. This can take years. Despite the fact that this law has been on the books for years, we recently addressed the constitutional problems with this scheme, and won. We had a client who had his vehicle seized over a year ago. While we’ve spent over a year fighting the criminal charges lodged against him (he was charged with “refusing” a breath test. In reality, the Intoxilyzer 5000 “refused” to accept his breath sample), his vehicle sat in an impound lot, depreciating in value while remaining exposed to the elements. Meanwhile, the State patiently waited for permission to sell it at auction and divvy up the spoils.
On our motion for summary judgment, the court ruled that the forfeiture law is unconstitutional, and the vehicle was ordered to be returned. By convincing the court that this law – a law that has been enforced for years – was unconstitutional, we took a bleak looking situation and ended up getting results for our client.
Winning a DWI case means winning the criminal case, the civil Implied Consent case, and sometimes, the vehicle forfeiture case. If you’ve been charged with a crime – especially a crime that resulted in a forfeiture of your hard-earned personal property - you’ll need an attorney who knows how to defend all of your rights. That’s when you need to call Charles Ramsay Law Office. Where other attorneys have given up, we can get results.
One Hennepin County judge wrote in a source code order that it may be malpractice for a lawyer not to seek breath test software. That remains to be seen and depends primarily on the outcome of our experts' analysis. Practically speaking, however, the source code coalition has prepared matters to point where it requires little effort from attorneys to take advantage of this issue.
The upside is obvious -- drivers' DWI breath tests could be thrown out. There is little down side -- a minimal contribution from each lawyer and a delay necessitated by the review.
So the question is: is your lawyer a member of the Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code Coalition.
If not, get another lawyer.
I've listed of all members below as of today. In addition to this, all state public defender cases are included.
This is false. My law firm demanded full, unfettered access of the software on disc so that our experts can review it at their labs.
Because CMI and the state government secretly settled the federal lawsuit over our objections, we are limited to reviewing the source code at CMI corporate headquarters. CMI's onerous conditions have caused the cost of review to skyrocket and has slowed the process dramatically.
Interestingly, computer experts routinely conduct independent and adverse examinations of military and corporate source codes. The industry standard is to provide the software on disc to allow the experts to review the source code at their own labs. Why does CMI need protections greater than Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Apple Computer?
After months of negotiations, expert analysis of the breath test machine has come to a halt – before even getting started.
Last June the state of Minnesota and CMI announced they had secretly negotiated a resolution to the source code dispute. Attorneys who represent drivers charged with DWI objected, noting the agreement denied them reasonable access to the machine’s software that determines the guilt or innocence.
Since then, source code coalition leaders hired computer experts to analyze the Intoxilyzer 5000 source code and began preparation for software analysis in Kentucky. CMI, however, has continued to thwart coalition efforts, refusing to provide access meeting industry standards for software analysis.
Upon reaching an impasse with CMI, this week the source code coalition sent this letter to Judge Frank, the federal court judge who oversaw the state agreement with CMI, and to Judge Abrams, the Minnesota state court judge who is overseeing the consolidated state court cases. The coalition is asking the judges to remove the barriers erected by CMI, so the coalition can begin its review of the source code.
One Hennepin County judge wrote in a source code order that it may be malpractice for a lawyer not to seek breath test software. That remains to be seen and depends primarily on the outcome of our experts' analysis. Practically speaking, however, the source code coalition has prepared matters to point where it requires little effort from attorneys to take advantage of this issue.
The upside is obvious -- drivers' DWI breath tests could be thrown out. There is little down side -- a minimal contribution from each lawyer and a delay necessitated by the review.
So the question is: is your lawyer a member of the Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code Coalition.
If not, get another lawyer.
I've listed of all members below as of today. In addition to this, all state public defender cases are included.
Here's the latest on the expert analysis of the software: While CMI, the Intoxilyzer 5000 manufacturer, has yet to provide us reasonable access, Marsh Halberg, one of the other lead attorneys, has made significant progress. Our experts are ready to go. We hope to have them in Owensburo Kentucky by the end of the January to begin the software review.
Practicing on the cutting edge of criminal defense law is highly rewarding for both our clients and our attorneys. It wasn’t too long ago that we renewed our attack against Minnesota’s illogical urine testing regime for DWI suspects. We carefully crafted a unique legal argument and have already seen success for our clients in the district courts as a result of this argument. Such arguments require a strong scientific understanding – not just legal experience – and take a determined lawyer to prove effective in court.
Just last week, we brushed up on our studies and held another Frye-Mack hearing. This type of hearing is a key part to our attack against a urine testing regime that is being used to convict Minnesota drivers who may not have had any alcohol in their bloodstream when they were driving. If you think that last sentence sounds absurd, wait until you read what the government presented as evidence that Minnesota’s method of urine testing is a “generally accepted practice” in the scientific community.
- The government expert initially relied on numerous studies that purportedly supported the way Minnesota conducts urine tests. On careful cross examination, however, the expert was quickly forced to admit that the authors of these studies actually oppose the way Minnesota uses urine testing in DWI cases.
- The government witnesses were unable to speak about a single other state that uses urine testing for DWI’s in the way that Minnesota does. Again, cross examination was able to reveal to the court that Minnesota is the only state to utilize first void urine samples to convict DWI suspects.
- When we had our chance to present testimony (something we’ve perfected since we first formulated this argument) we presented volumes of unrebutted testimony, expert opinion and scientific articles that make one thing clear: Minnesota needs to stop using urine tests to convict drivers of DWI.
- We introduced a new peer reviewed scientific treatise, "Relationship between Blood and Urine Concentrations..." by Dr. A.W. Jones to be published later this year in Forensic Science International. Dr. Jones’ data supports his previous conclusions that Minnesota urine testing is bad science.
- In a bombshell, the former supervisor of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s toxicology section, Glenn Hardin, testified he submitted a written proposal to rid the state of urine testing to determine a specific level of alcohol in DWI cases. His political supervisors, however, thwarted his attempt to rid Minnesota of unscientific urine testing.
The testimony has all been heard; now we’re waiting for the judge to issue a ruling. Given our experience in the area, we’re expecting a victory for our client, and hope to be able to post again soon with another judicial order explaining what every other scientist (outside the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) understands: Minnesota’s urine testing regime is unreliable and inaccurate.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI, and the government is using the results of a urine test against you, you’ll want attorneys with the background, experience and drive to make sure that your rights are protected. That means calling Ramsay Law Office, where we don’t just let the government get their way – we get results.
In our first trial of 2010, a Hennepin County jury found my client not guilty after a trial in Minneapolis.
The prosecutor had charged “Eric” (not his real name) with DWI after his arrest in August last year. The police officer stopped Eric’s Mercedes convertible after crossing over the center line three times, almost striking another vehicle. Eric agreed to perform standardized field sobriety tests consisting of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (eye test where the person follows the officer’s finger or pen), the One Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn test (walking heel to toe on a line).
The officer arrested Eric after the field sobriety tests. Eric submitted to a urine test. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) tested Eric’s urine sample and reported his alcohol concentration was over the legal limit of 0.80. As a result of the test result, the state charged Eric with two charges of Second Degree DWI (3d in ten years) and forfeited his $80,000 automobile.
Before trial I obtained Eric’s urine sample from the BCA and had it retested by an independent lab. The reported result was .076, just UNDER the legal limit.
We began trial Tuesday with pre-trial motions. The judge denied all of our motions (the first time that has happened in my career!) and we began picking a jury. I called no witnesses to testify and relied on my cross examination to establish reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.
The jury returned Thursday afternoon with a verdict of Not Guilty.
Many believe DWI cases are not winnable. Most attorneys unfortunately believe all they can do is “negotiate” with the prosecutor and do not challenge the evidence or take the cases to trial. As a result of challenging the evidence and winning the trial, the state will likely return Eric’s $80,000 vehicle.
As the battle of Minnesota’s Intoxilyzer 5000 continues with no real end in sight, many metro counties have consolidated their source code cases to conserve state resources, prevent inconsistent rulings and to manage the growing caseload.
The First Judicial District, with its seven counties, has consolidated its cases before one judge and has issued an Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code case management order along the lines of the federal court’s multidistrict litigation rules. Judge Abrams, who teaches complex litigation at the University of Minnesota Law School, has by far done the best job organizing and scheduling the consolidated cases. Other counties have begun formal consolidation of Intoxilyzer 5000 source code cases, including Hennepin, Anoka and Chisago.
When I began writing this blog last month, Ramsey and Washington Counties seemed to be of the only metro-area counties which had yet to consolidate.
Ramsey County’s chief judge had written to the Minnesota Supreme Court requesting consolidation on a state wide basis, but the request was denied for procedural reasons.
This week, Minnesota Lawyer reported that Ramsey County has a consolidation plan in place.
Ramsey County is following a kind of hybrid model of consolidation, Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin said. Cases involving challenges to the source code will be assigned to one judge, but only for the purpose of resolving the source code issue. The cases will then be assigned to different judges for trial. Cases not involving source code issues must proceed, she added. ... Gearin said that there are discussions ongoing about multi-county proceedings, but Ramsey doesn’t want to wait while those talks run their course.
I have yet to see any orders reflecting this.
The last Ramsey County order I received was before Thanksgiving from Ramsey CountyJudge Marrinan. The order addresses the timing and sequence of expert review of the breath test machine’s software.
The order states:
1. Defendant shall receive access to the source code from CMI pursuant to the instructions and parameters set forth in State v. CMI.
2. Consistent with the Permanent Injunction at Paragraph 3(b) of the above, the Court has executed a Protective Order in this matter, which is attached.
3. Within 90 days after execution of the NDA, Defendant's expert shall report his or her findings to Defendant's counsel, who shall forward a copy to the Court and to counsel for the State within three working days after receipt.
4. The State and CMI shall then have 90 days in which to have their experts review the report of defendant's expert, review the source code, and submit their reports.
5. The State and CMI, shall forward copies of their experts reports to the court and Defendant's counsel within three working days after receipt.
6. Defendant shall appear for a JT in this matter on 7/26/10 at 8:45 am in Maplewood Courtroom A.
While the Ramsey County order is designed to keep the source code battle moving, it is silent regarding issues that already have arisen. For example, CMI, the Intoxilyzer 5000 manufacturer, continues to thwart the Minnesota source code coalition’s experts’ review of the software. As a result, we have been unable to begin analyzing the code which will certainly delay our experts’ report. What if we are unable to complete the report in the time they required?
Minnesota DWI Defense Blog will continue to update its readers as information becomes available on the Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code battle.
Many consider the test refusal law to be unbeatable. The law is not straightforward and is difficult to understand. A lawyer well versed in the law, science and facts of your case can beat the crime of test refusal.
The law as it exists today came about to close a loophole in Minnesota’s DWI law. Decades ago, people refused to submit alcohol testing which limited the evidence available to the state. Then, the state passed the "Implied Consent Law." Under the original law, upon refusing to test the state would revoke a person’s license for one year. This caused most people to submit to testing. To increase those numbers, the state made it a crime to refuse testing under the Minnesota Implied Consent Act. This crime was treated the same as taking the test and failing. Later, when the state amended the criminal DWI law making the consequences more severe for those over .20, many drivers began to refuse to take the test rather than risk facing enhanced charges for a high alcohol test result.
Once drivers became more aware of the enhanced charges for a .20 or greater, more drivers again began refusing DWI tests rather than risk facing the more serious consequences. The state closed that loophole earlier this decade by making test refusal a crime more serious than merely failing a DWI alcohol test over .08 or more.
As a result of the piecemeal amendments to Minnesota’s Impaired Driving Laws, the laws have become an unconstitutional, knotted mess.
The refusal provision states:
“It is a crime for any person to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person's blood, breath, or urine under section 169A.51 (chemical tests for intoxication), or 169A.52 (test refusal or failure; revocation of license).” Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2 (2008).Under the law, the refusal crime is more serious than taking and failing the test.
Is Minnesota’s DWI Test Refusal Law Constitutional?
Minnesota is one of fifteen states that make it a crime for a driver to refuse to submit to blood, urine or breath testing after being arrested for a DWI.The rationale behind the criminal law is obvious: to coerce drivers into providing an alcohol test to increase the likelihood of conviction.
I believe the law is unconstitutional as it compels citizens to waive their right to warrantless searches and seizure.I argued this before the Minnesota Supreme Court last year, but the Court sidestepped the issue in State v. Netland.The court left undecided one question, as articulated by the dissent.
Minnesota Intoxilyzer 5000: Using Science to Beat a Test Refusal
Fortunately, DWI lawyers who are particularly skilled and knowledgeable about Minnesota’s Implied Consent DWI law may be able to beat a DWI test refusal charge when the driver submits to the Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test.
The local twin cities media has reported on how I’ve exposed flaws in the breath test software causing the Intoxilyzer 5000 to erroneously deem a person to have refused to submit to a breath test.The documents I’ve discovered and the testimony I’ve elicited have resulted in a federal judge ordering CMI to disclose the source code to Minnesota defense attorneys.
A driver is not likely to beat a breath test refusal charge without a Minnesota lawyer who knows the scientific flaws of the Intoxilyzer 5000, the issues involving the source code and how the state’s experts will testify in court.
Blood Tests and Urine Tests: Using the DWI Law’s Provisions to Beat the Refusal Law
A client hired me last month in a blood test refusal case.I thought the facts from the case can help explain how to beat a test refusal to test charge.
My client was stopped by police and arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.The officer took her to a hospital for a blood test.The officer asked my client if she would submit to a blood test and my client agreed.
Here are relevant facts from the officer’s police report:
I began to read the Implied Consent document to “Kim.” Kim agreed to take a blood test.An RN assisted me with the blood draw.I opened the blood kit and began filling out the paper work. Kim was physically pulling away from the nurse when she put the tourniquet on her arm. Kim said she didn't like needles. I explained to Kim that this was a registered nurse and she will be fine.Kim would not let the nurse touch her.
Kim would physically pull away every time the nurse would touch her arm. I explained to Kim that she already agreed to take the blood test and that if she did not allow the nurse to take blood that it will be considered a refusal.
Another nurse was called to assist. The nurse said she will hold her arm straight for her while the other nurse inserts the needle. Kim lifted her feet off the floor almost kicking the nurse in the stomach, RN told Kim that the other nurse was pregnant and that she needed to settle down. Kim said “just do it.”RN attempted again to draw blood and Kim pulled away swinging her arms. RN said that she would attempt one more time because she was making it dangerous with the needle. Kim again physically pulled away from the nurse, RN said she would not draw blood because she was physically uncooperative and it was dangerous.Due to Kim’s aggressive behavior all testing was stopped.
Kim refused to test.
Does this violate Minnesota’s Implied Consent/DWI Test refusal law?No.
Under the Statute, “action may be taken against a person who refuses to take a blood test only if an alternative test was offered and action may be taken against a person who refuses to take a urine test only if an alternative test was offered.Minn. Stat. § 169A.51, subd. 3 (emphasis added).
It is clear that the legislature never intended for a person to be subject to criminal charges simply for refusing a blood test or urine test without being offered an alternative.
In this example, although Kim said she would submit to a blood test, she prevented the RN from withdrawing blood and she refused the test.However, the officer should have offered Kim the opportunity to submit to a urine test before declaring, “Kim refused to test.”
Because no action can be taken against a person for refusing to submit to a blood test unless an alternative test is offered, the judge should dismiss the test refusal charge.As a footnote, the state took my client’s car in this very real case.Once the judge dismisses the refusal charge the state will be forced to return my client’s car to her.
If you have been charged with DWI, DUI or Refusal to Submit to Testing, call Chuck Ramsay immediately.
We’ve previously posted about Urine Testing and Frye-Mack hearings. Today, a reader asked “what is a Frye-Mack hearing, and should my attorney be asking for one too?”
The Constitution’s Guarantee of Right to Trial by Jury
Whenever a prosecutor charges a person with a crime that could result in jail, the Constitution provides that person with numerous constitutional rights. One of those sacred, longstanding rights is the right to a trial.
At its most basic, a trial is nothing more than a fact finding process. That means that everyone charged with a crime has the right to have a jury of his or her peers listen to the evidence and determine, based solely on that evidence, whether or not the State has proven that the “defendant” committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Good Defense Lawyers Are Worth Their Value
Good Lawyers know how and what types of evidence can be presented to that jury.Great lawyers know how to keep out evidence that should not be admitted at trial.
Anyone who has watched Law and Order realizes that there are a variety of grounds for an attorney to get evidence suppressed. Usually, on TV, it’s because the evidence was obtained by police officers that broke the law.
However, in real life, it’s far more likely that an attorney will be attempting to suppress evidence because it’s simply not relevant, or because it is so unreliable that it would do nothing more than confuse the jury. Sometimes, it’s because the evidence looks good at first glance, but is really nothing more than smoke and mirrors. And this is where the phrase Frye-Mack comes into play.
A Frye-Mack hearing is an evidentiary hearing, held before any trial takes place, and it is used to determine if “scientific evidence” can be presented against an accused defendant. It’s called a Frye-Mack hearing in Minnesota based upon two reported cases that outlined the procedure; United States v. Frye, a Washington D.C. case from the 1920's that dealt with a type of lie detector test, and State v. Mack, a Minnesota case from the 1980's that dealt with “hypnosis” testimony.
As a result of these two cases (and many others that followed), Minnesota has two very specific criteria that need to be met before the State can introduce scientific evidence to a jury. These criteria are aimed at preventing juries from being presented with “junk science.”
Frye-Mack Prong 1:Has the test gained general acceptance in the scientific community?
Under what is called the “first prong” of Frye-Mack analysis, the State must prove that the scientific technique that is being used has gained general acceptance in the scientific community. As a fun example, we’ll use phrenology, or the belief that the personality traits of a person can be derived from the shape of that person’s skull.
In our example, before a jury could find someone guilty of murder based on phrenological evidence (let’s say the State can prove that the defendant has the dreaded “murder bump” on his forehead) the State would have to show that phrenology is a scientific technique that is generally accepted in the scientific community. There would be a Frye-Mack hearing, and the State would fly in experts from around the world to testify about how everyone uses and respects phrenology, why phrenology is such good science, and maybe even why the specific bumps on their own heads prove that they are credible witnesses. If, after all the testimony, the judge is convinced that phrenology is generally accepted in the scientific community, the State has succeeded on “prong one” of the Frye-Mack test.
Frye-Mack Prong 2:Did they do the test properly?
Having successfully met its burden on prong one, the State would then have to meet its burden on “prong two” of the Frye-Mack test. This second prong means that the State must not only show that a technique is generally accepted in the scientific community, but also that the laboratory conducting the tests in the individual case complied with appropriate standards and controls.
In our example, the State would meet its burden under the second prong of the Frye-Mack tests by presenting more experts that could show how phrenology typically works (probably with models of human skulls and demonstrations on how to use weird measuring devices). The State would then have to show that, in the case of our alleged murderer, those accepted techniques were used to conclude that yes, our alleged murderer does have the “murder bump” on his forehead, so of course he must be guilty.
Of course, in a real courtroom, a jury would never hear evidence of phrenology. That’s why Minnesota uses the Frye-Mack standard - to prevent the jury from even being exposed to junk science. In our example, I doubt a prosecutor could find one reliable expert that could sit in court and say, with a straight face, that the scientific community generally agrees that phrenology is valid science. Without proof of general acceptance in the scientific community, the State fails to meet its burden under prong one of Frye-Mack analysis and the evidence is excluded as junk science. We can all breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that the lumps on our head won’t lead to criminal charges in the near future.
However, the two prongs of the Frye-Mack test apply not just to phrenology, but every type of -ology, up to and including every type of mechanical or physical scientific test. Both prongs of the test, general acceptance and foundational reliability, must be met before scientific evidence can be presented to a jury.
DNA evidence, for example, has already been proven to be generally accepted at a Frye-Mack hearing, and juries now see this type of evidence every day. Polygraphs (lie detectors), on the other hand, have not been shown to have gained general acceptance in the scientific community, and until that happens in Minnesota, the results of polygraph tests cannot be presented to a jury.
The list of types of scientific evidence that has undergone the scrutiny of the Frye-Mack test is long, but every scientific technique that has been analyzed has one thing in common - the State had its chance to prove that the technique had gained general acceptance in the scientific community, and either succeeded or failed in its showing.
This, in a nutshell, is what a Frye-Mack hearing is - a special evidentiary safeguard that is in place to make absolutely sure that a person can’t be proven guilty based on science, unless and until that type of science has gained general acceptance in the scientific community.
When it comes to DWI’s, especially DWI’s involving urine tests, one thing is crystal clear: testing urine to determine a precise alcohol concentration at a given point in time has never been shown, via a Frye-Mack hearing, to be a technique that is generally accepted in the scientific community. The sad reality is that there are volumes of evidence demonstrating that it is not generally accepted by any good scientists, and that Minnesota is unique in that it still presents juries with urine test results in DWI cases. Thus, good attorneys who fully understand the rules of evidence will stand up and demand that a Frye-Mack hearing be held whenever the State attempts to use “junk science” like urine tests against their clients.
Every Driver Charged With A DWI by Urine Should File A Frye-Mack Motion.
Although the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not agree with us that Frye applies to urine cases, we are appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court.In the past, Judges have ruled Urine Does not Pass the Frye Test. I expect the Minnesota Supreme Court to do the same.
In a cruel, ironic twist, a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling today makes the least scientific alcohol test the most unassailable. In Schroeder v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, A09-238 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 15, 2009), the court rejected a driver’s claim that urine testing is not a practice that is generally accepted in the scientific community as a valid and reliable method of determining alcohol concentration.
Minnesota uses three types of DWI alcohol testing methods: blood, breath and urine. Blood is widely recognized as the most reliable. Even breath tests, which suffer from some well known problems, are used around the world. However, most states do not use urine testing at all to determine a specific level of alcohol concentration.
One district court who tackled this issue head on had some choice words to say about this type of urine testing. The Honorable Judge Thuet, in the case of Carrell v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, said:
“[T]he continued use of a testing procedure which experts agree may not measure the level of alcohol concentration, and thus intoxication of a driver at the time it is administered, and which the state's witness admitted may yield results that do not correlate with blood tests performed at the same time, constitutes an absurd result which the Legislature could not possibly have intended, especially given the stated goal of enhancing safety by removing intoxicated drivers from the roads. In light of this, the Court is compelled to rescind the revocation of the Petitioner's driving privileges.
Despite the opinions of some Minnesota judges and almost the entire scientific community, the court of appeals rejected our demand for a Frye-Mack hearing (which would require the State to show that urine testing is generally accepted in the scientific community). Instead, the court implicitly adopts the Daubert standard (a standard used in other jurisdictions – ironically, those that don’t even use urine testing – that allows judges to simply take judicial notice of reliability of urine testing). By ignoring our Frye-Mack request, the court is attempting to make the presumption that urine testing is reliable irrefutable.
To understand just how troubling this ruling is requires a brief explanation of the standard that should have been applied by the Schroeder panel (the Frye-Mack standard) versus the standard that was actually applied (the Daubert standard) and why this is a dangerous precedent for the entire state of Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Frye-Mack standard has been steadily evolving since the early 20th century, and by the 1980's the Minnesota Supreme Court summarized the test in State v. Mack, 292 N.W.2d 764, 768 (Minn.1980), by stating that, “the results of mechanical or scientific testing are not admissible unless the testing has developed or improved to the point where experts in the field widely share the view that the results are scientifically reliable as accurate.”
The Supreme Court summed up its holding in State v. Mack two decades later by stating that the ultimate purpose of determining the admissibility of mechanical or scientific evidence is to ensure that, “the particular evidence must have a foundation that is scientifically reliable.” State v. Roman Nose, 649 N.W.2d 815, 818 (Minn. 2002).
The Supreme Court then carefully and definitively created a two-pronged standard that must be used to determine if a particular piece of mechanical or scientific evidence has a foundation that is scientifically reliable. Id. Concisely stated, the Court held that, “a novel scientific technique that produces evidence to be admitted at trial must be shown to be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community, and second, the particular evidence derived from the technique and used in an individual case must have a foundation that is scientifically reliable. Id. at 818-819 (citing Goebv. Tharaldson, 615 N.W.2d 800, 810 (Minn.2000) [reaffirming adherence to Frye-Mack standard after Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993)]).
Unfortunately, even a cursory reading of the Schroeder opinion shows that, rather than follow the Supreme Court’s mandate in the seminal Frye-Mack case of State v. Roman Nose, the Court of Appeals instead chose to utilize the Daubert standard for admitting scientific evidence. This, despite the fact that Minnesota has not adopted the Daubert standard, because it is less rigorous than the Frye-Mack standard. State v. Traylor, 656 N.W.2d 885, 891 (Minn.2003). This, despite the fact that one of the judges on the Schroeder panel, when confronted with a specific request to use the Daubert standard instead of the Frye-Mack standard, held that “[T]he task of extending existing law falls to the supreme court or the legislature, but it does not fall to this court.”Yang v. State, 2008 WL 1972856 (Minn.App. 2008) (citing Tereault v. Palmer, 413 N.W.2d 283, 286 (Minn.App.1987), review denied (Minn. 18 Dec. 1987).
The Schroeder panel started its cursory two-paragraph analysis by accurately stating that, “[t]he Frye-Mack test is aimed at reliability.”Schroeder at 5. This is a fairly close approximation of the Supreme Court’s summation of Frye-Mack in the Roman Nose case, cited supra in this post.
What the Schroeder panel did next, however, was to eviscerate the standard two-prong Frye-Mack analysis and instead fall back upon the rejected Daubert standard. After reciting the fact that Frye-Mack is indeed concerned with “reliability,” the panel chose to ignore the fact that Frye-Mack has established a clear and specific procedure for determining that “reliability.” Instead, the Panel simply held, without analysis, that “reliability” as a general concept had already been established by two Court of Appeals cases, Genung v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 589 N.W.2d 311 (Minn. App. 1999) and Hayesv. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 773 N.W.2d 134 (Minn. App. 2009), pet. for review filed (Minn. Nov. 6, 2009). This appellate determination that, nothwithstanding the views of the scientific community, urine testing has mystically become reliable science by judicial fiat is precisely what Minnesota’s Frye-Mack regime is designed to avoid. Neither of the two cases cited by the Schroeder panel dealt with whether or not the testing method at issue had been proven to be “generally accepted in the scientific community,” the required first-prong burden that applies under Frye-Mack. Judicial fiat, not hard science, now appears to be the new test that applies to scientific evidence in Minnesota.
What is so troubling about this sudden development is that the Supreme Court has gone to great, detailed length to carefully explain exactly what type of analysis is required under prong one of Frye-Mack . . . and, as if able to predict the future, the Supreme Court even managed to explicitly reject the approach taken by the Schroeder panel.
Rather than paraphrase or run the risk of misinterpreting the plain language of the Minnesota Supreme Court, a few direct quotations are all that is necessary to demonstrate that the Court of Appeals is attempting to undermine the entire appellate process. The first quote comes from State v. Roman Nose, and explains why the Schroeder panel’s simple and misguided reliance on prior cases (where the issue of general acceptance in the scientific community was not at issue, much less litigated) is improper: The Court stated:
“[T]he issue of whether a technique is generally accepted within the relevant scientific community is best determined by evidentiary hearing. See Goeb v. Tharaldson, 615 N.W.2d 800, 814 (Minn. 2000). There was no evidentiary hearing on general acceptance in this case and, contrary to the dissent's argument, hearings before other district courts will not substitute for the evidentiary hearing required here. Without an evidentiary hearing on the views of the relevant scientific community, trial and appellate judges become scientists, an approach we clearly rejected in Goeb. 615 N.W.2d at 813-14. State v. Roman Nose, 649 N.W.2d 815, 819, fn.3 (Minn. 2002)”
What immediately comes to mind is that the Schroeder Panel is indeed viewing itself as “amateur scientists” despite all warnings to the contrary by the Supreme Court. Relying on Hayes (where defense experts were actually precluded from testifying) and Genung (where the prosecution did not even present expert testimony, and where the defendant did not even contest the foundation for the urine test) simply cannot comply with the demand to hold an “evidentiary hearing on the views of the relevant scientific community.” Thus, we have a new breed of judge-scientist, a dangerous breed that the Supreme Court has warned the bar about since the dawn of the new millennium.
This type of logic - effectively using the doctrine of “judicial notice” to find that a scientific technique is indeed generally accepted in the scientific community - was shot down by the Roman Nose court years before it was utilized by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court in Roman Nose took the time to state clearly:
“The dissent argues that we should take “judicial notice” of the inherent reliability of the PCR-STR method of testing DNA unless something in the record indicates a reason to depart from the findings of other jurisdictions. But that is not the procedure we have established for determining the admissibility of scientific evidence. Moreover, there is an inadequate record to support taking judicial notice of the general acceptance of the PCR-STR method because appellant's request for a hearing on the issue was denied by the trial court.”State v. Roman Nose, 649 N.W.2d 815, 823, fn 9 (Minn.,2002)
As if the above quotations did not make the need for an evidentiary hearing clear enough, and the Supreme Court felt obligated to clearly explain to the lower courts how to conduct Frye-Makc analysis, the opinion in Roman Nose further elaborated on the need for an evidentiary hearing. Again, this is a hearing where the specific issue presented was whether or not a mechanical or scientific technique is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. The Court repeated that:
“It is not enough for us to believe the test has gained general acceptance in the relevant scientific community. The state must establish that it has gained general acceptance, and it must do so by evidentiary hearing.”State v. Roman Nose, 649 N.W.2d 815, 820, fn.5 (Minn. 2002)”
In the case of Schroeder v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, the Appellant was asking for nothing more than what the Supreme Court says is absolutely necessary - an evidentiary hearing. Appellant merely wanted the district court to compel the Commissioner to prove, once and only once, one specific proposition. And that proposition came directly from the Supreme Court: Is urine testing, as practiced by Minnesota, a mechanical or scientific technique that has gained general acceptance in the scientific community?” This question was never raised in Genung. It was never raised in Hayes. It was never ruled on by either court. For the Schroeder panel to so callously disregard the Supreme Court’s expectation that Frye-Mack issues will be resolved via nothing other than an evidentiary hearing is a dangerous precedent indeed.
By eliminating the need for an evidentiary proponent to prove general acceptance of a technique, and replacing this test with the nebulous, impossible to define threshold of bald, “reliability,” the Schroeder panel has set dangerous precedent and has demonstrated exactly why Minnesotans do not want their judges to act as scientists.
We are continuing to fight the use of bad science to ruin people’s lives. Let’s hope the Minnesota Supreme Court accepts review and overturns the court of appeals absurd rulings.
In Minnesota, to beat a DWI, a good criminal defense attorney needs to win not once, but twice. That means succeeding on the criminal case (where the penalties include possible jail time, fines, and years of probation), and also winning the separate Implied Consent case (which deals solely with a person’s driver’s license and license plates). There may even be a third case – beating the police forfeiture of the person’s motor vehicle.
Last week, a SherburneCounty judge found in favor of our client on his Implied Consent case. This wiped our client’s driving record clean of any “alcohol-related” revocation and protected him from having to drive around with “whiskey plates.” We were able to win on this case without even getting into the merits of the blood test that my client took – and we did it by convincing the judge that the police unconstitutionally stopped my client.
The police pulled our client over because, supposedly, he made a wide turn. Specifically, the police claimed that our client started his turn in one lane of traffic, and finished his turn in another lane, and that this was a traffic violation worthy of being pulled over for.
Seems like a valid basis for a stop, right? Most people would think so, but then, most people would be WRONG. Besides the obvious fact that many people (including police) make these types of turns every day, a careful reading of Minnesota Statutes make it clear that such a turn ISN’T EVEN ILLEGAL!
That was an argument that Ramsay Law Firm lawyer, Dan Koewler, and I brought to the judge, and that was the argument that won the case. Because the court ruled that the stop was unconstitutional, numerous other issues we raised did not even need to be addressed (it only takes one winning argument to win an entire case).
This just goes to show that when you’ve got an experienced attorney dedicated to beating the entire DWI case, you can get results based on issues that other attorneys might not even consider. That’s why we at our law firm pride ourselves on carefully analyzing every case, to make sure that every possible opportunity to win our client’s case is fully litigated.
We regularly beat all types of DWI cases, on a variety of grounds. If you’ve been charged with a DWI or DUI as a result of a blood, breath or urine test, call Ramsay Law Office immediately.
Hennepin County consolidated 102 DWI breath test cases. Today it held a hearing at which the attorneys, prosecutors and all 102 defendants were required to attend. The theory was that the prosecutors were going to offer deals to get the cases settled.
Someone forgot to tell the prosecutors.
Although some cases may eventually get resolved, it seemed few, if any cases, settled today. Instead, we learned:
·Prosecutors would not object to consolidation on a state wide basis, but have yet to file a motion to do so.
·Prosecutors have not looked into retaining an expert to analyze the source code, instead they will use the expert retained by the Attorney General on civil cases.
·Prosecutors do not want their expert to begin work until after the defense has concluded its work.
·Prosecutors believe it is best to set a “tracking date” to move things along.
·The Source Code Coalition requested consolidating HennepinCounty cases with the First Judicial District. This would save judicial resources as well as the resources of its municipalities.
The next date was set for June 1, 2010.
Judge Abrams has done an excellent job coordinating the 700+ cases in the First Judicial District and has issued a strict scheduling order, with a trial date of May 10, 2010. Trial is expected to take three weeks.
Is it a coincidence that HennepinCounty scheduled the next source code case immediately after the First Judicial District’s case?
In my opinion, the prosecutors from HennepinCounty don’t want consolidation because they want two bites at the apple. If the prosecutors like the results from the First District, will they seek to use the results in HennepinCounty. If they don’t like the results, then they have the right to their own hearing on the source code issue.
Hennepin County Judge Daly issued an email today regarding the approximately 90 criminal DWI Intoxilyzer Source Code. In the email addressed to the Source Code Coalition, judges of the Judges of the Fourth Judicial District and others, she wrote:
Tomorrow we will be conducting a hearing on the criminal source code cases. The hearing will be on the A Level of the GovernmentCenter, in the Jury Assembly Room, at 9:00 AM. I will be there along with Judges Wernick and Cahill. Judge Jerry Abrams of the First District will be attending the hearing.
Given that there are over 90 cases on that calendar we need to have some efficiencies. The hearing will be reported and so consideration will be given to the reporter as well. For those reasons we are asking that each “group” select a spokesperson. By “group” we mean the private defense group( MSCJ), the Meaney/Patrin group (if they wish to have a separate spokesperson), the PD (if they wish to speak separately from the MSCJ), the suburban prosecutors and the Minneapolis City Attorney.
We will be asking Judge Abrams to talk about what is happening in the First. We will then ask each group to state what they are requesting of the court going forward. Finally, ever hopeful, Judge Wernick and Cahill will be available to accept pleas should the parties wish to resolve their case. The defendants are required to appear at this hearing.
Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. See you all tomorrow.
Given that CMI does not seem to be cooperating with the Source Code Coalition's efforts to examine the source code -- thus further delaying the review -- I hope prosecutors are in a mood to resolve these cases. To do so, I believe they should have the mindset that the Intoxilyzer 5000 test result will not be available to them in their case. Otherwise, the defendants will have no incentive to settle.
I have been successful getting judges to throw out urine test results. I’ve posted the court orders in the Carroll case and Westlund case. I’ve also prevailed in trial where a jury agreed urine tests are worthless. Prosecutors are well aware of my firm’s victories. Indeed, I’ve had much greater success in this area than any other attorney in Minnesota. As a result, prosecutors are reluctant to go to trial with me in urine test cases. This is good news for my clients.
If the State of Minnesota has charged you with a crime or taken your license based on a urine test, call us immediately. We can help.
Today, Judge Abrams issued his Case Management Order (CMO) for Minnesota's First Judicial District's Intoxilyzer 5000 Source Code litigation. The order sets a final hearing on the source code issue for May 10-21, 2010.
WHEREAS, the Court has determined that this Case Management Order
("CMO") is appropriate and will be of assistance in the efficient management of this litigation; IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that this CMO be and hereby is entered as follows:
1. Case Designation
Every filing shall contain, in its caption, the Master File Number 70-CV-09-19459.
In addition, for each separate case the individual originating County file number assigned to each case must also be included in the caption for any filing which pertains to an individual case. Filings in the Master Court File shall be made as set forth in the following paragraph. Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a listing of the original file numbers and other pertinent information for each case which is subject to this Order.
Allcases and all filings for the Master Case File herein shall be directed to the attention of Lori Brandon, Court Administration Scott County. Regardless of where the case was initially filed, all cases Subject to the Consolidation Orders issued in the First District by the Honorable Edward Lynch, as attached in Exhibit A, are to comply with the terms of this CMO. All filings for the individual matters shall be filed with the Court Administrator's Office in the originating county.
2. Applicability of Order
This Case Management Order ("CMO") applies to all pre trial, and trial proceedings concerning the "Source Code" issue in the Implied Consent Master Case and in all cases listed in Exhibit A. Upon resolution of the "Source Code" issue, each case shall be returned to its originating County for such further trials or hearings as may be required.
3. Filing and Service of Papers
a. Master Service List.
Except as otherwise provided for herein, all papers or pleadings filed with the Court or served upon a party shall be served as described in this CMO on counsel for all parties to this action in accordance with the Master Case List, attached hereto as Exhibit A. For the purposes of economy, it shall be sufficient to state in a certificate of service that the relevant document was served on counsel for all parties and on unrepresented parties listed on the Master Case List current as of that date. The Master Case List may be incorporated by reference with express reference to the revised date thereof, and need not be attached to the certificate of service. The document served must be addressed to the individual attorney(s) or unrepresented party(ies) on the Master Case List.
b. Method and Timing of Service.
Service of all pleadings, motions, deposition notices, requests for discovery and other papers required to be served upon counsel for the parties or unrepresented parties (collectively "papers") shall be affected upon the parties with copies to all persons on the Master Case List by electronic mail. Papers served by electronic mail shall be attached to emails as Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files or Microsoft Word (.doc) files. To the extent a party is unable to effect service by electronic mail to counsel for any party or any party not represented by counsel, service may be affected by facsimile, overnight mail, or regular mail. Large exhibits, affidavits, declarations, or other supplemental documents may be served by overnight mail. With respect to any papers served as described in this paragraph 3b, three (3) days shall be added to any time computed under the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure or the Minnesota General Rules of Practice for any party to respond to any such papers.
All Orders of the court in connection with this case shall be posted on the First Judicial District Website at http://www.mncourts.gov/districU1/?page=3753 and shall also be simultaneously transmitted to Liaison Counsel for service upon parties in accordance with the procedures set forth herein.
The original of every pleading and motion shall be filed with this Court along with proof of service on all counsel and unrepresented parties. The original of each filing shall be directed to the Master File; one copy shall be directed to the originating county for filing in the individual case file. A courtesy copy of every pleading, motion, or letter shall also be directed to Judge Abrams, C/O Daniel J. Sagstetter, Judicial Law Clerk. The parties are advised that for each case in which a fee may be required for filing, (e.g. motion fee, fax fee) THE FEE MUST BE PAID FOR EACH CASE INWHICH RELIEF IS BEING SOUGHT. The fee should be submitted to
Court Administration in the originating county for each individual file. No additional fee is required for the service copy directed to the Master File.The filing of discovery materials with this Court shall be governed by the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, except that the original of all such papers which are not filed with this Court under such rules shall be kept in the offices of counsel responsible for generating such pleading, motion or discovery.
All materials, such as correspondence, which are not due to be docketed, shall be sent directly to the chambers of Judge Abrams. Correspondence and other materials will only be accepted if they are in regards to general administrative matters. The parties shall not submit correspondence regarding substantive matters or any other substantive materials directly to the Judge assigned to the case unless requested by or authorized by Judge Abrams. The corresponding party shall contemporaneously forward a copy of all correspondence and other materials sent to Judge Abrams to all counsel and unrepresented parties by electronic mail or regular mail, as may be necessary.
e. Documents Filed with the District Court.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, any motion genuinely requiring emergency relief shall be delivered directly to the chambers of Judge Abrams. Any such document shall also be served electronically or faxed to all parties on the date of delivery. Proof of service shall be filed within (5) five business days thereafter.
a. Avoiding Redundancy.
All parties should use their best efforts to avoid unduly duplicative submissions and propound joint discovery requests to the end of minimizing the need for any other party to perform repetitive file searches or interviews of employees and agents on the same topics.
b. Document Requests.
The parties shall not unreasonably refuse to grant extensions of time if reasonably required due to the voluminous number of documents being produced or other necessity associated with their document production.
i. Place of Production and Procedures.
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, parties shall produce documents for inspection and copying, to the extent practicable, in the form and manner in which the documents have been maintained in the ordinary course of business or in which they previously have been maintained for production in litigation. To distinguish effectively among the documents designated for copying by the parties, each page of each document copied by any party shall bear a unique document identification number, with a unique prefix which identifies the party producing the document ("Bate Stamps" or "Bate Label"). Where documents or portions of documents are withheld, the parties shall, either through the numbering system or as otherwise provided in this Order, to the extent reasonably practicable, identify the number of pages withheld in a manner sufficient to indicate their location in the file being produced. Where part of a page is redacted, both the fact and location of the redaction, and the size or extent of the redaction shall be made clear on the face of the document.
Within a reasonable time before production, the producing party shall advise the inspecting party of the approximate volume of the documents and a general description of the types of files or other materials involved. Each party shall produce its documents at its option: (a) by production of originals as they are kept in the ordinary course of business; (b) by production of as legible as possible photocopies in the same format; or (c) by electronic means or other computerized storage. Notwithstanding these provisions, any party may request to inspect the original of any document, communication, or thing produced and the parties shall make arrangements for such inspection within ten (10) days of the request.
The location of the production shall be at the place where the documents are kept in the ordinary course of business, at the office of the producing attorney, or as otherwise agreed by the parties, provided, however, that all such document productions shall take place in the United States.
ii. Privilege Log.
If a party determines that a document responsive to a document request is subject to attorney/client privilege, attorney work product protection, or any other form of privileges or protection, the following method of handling the privileged or protected writing shall be followed.The producing party may withhold the privileged or protected document and must identify the withheld document on a privilege log which shall be provided to the requesting party and all other parties as soon as practicable, but no more than thirty (30) days following the date on which the producing party is due to commence physical production of the requested documents. If after completion of production pursuant to a particular demand for inspection the producing party discovers additional responsive documents and determines any of them to be subject to attorney/client privilege, attorney work product protection, or any other form of privilege or protection, the producing party may withhold any such privileged or protected document and must identify the withheld document on a privilege log which shall be provided to the requesting party as soon as practicable but in no case more than thirty (30) days after the documents are discovered. Likewise, to the extent any material within a document otherwise producible contains privileged or protected information, the document shall be produced subject to redaction of the subject privileged and protected material and shall be listed on the privilege log. All privilege logs shall identify each privileged document or work product by providing the Bates Label range, date, author(s), recipient(s), the subject matter of the document withheld or information redacted and the nature of the privilege or work product protection asserted. Nothing in this section shall preclude a party from challenging a claim of privilege.
c. Confidentiality Order.
All documents and other discovery materials and testimony produced or provided in this action may be subject to the terms and provisions of the Protective Order, in the form as attached as Exhibit B hereto, which has been entered in each case.
d. Inadvertent Production of Privileged Information.
If a party inadvertently produces information or documents that it considers privileged or protected material, in whole or in part, or learns of the production of its privileged or protected material by a third-party, the party may retrieve such information or documents or parts thereof, memoranda and other material as follows:
(1) Any assertion of inadvertent production shall be made as soon as practicable, but in any case within ten (10) days of the date the party discovers that it, its agents or attorneys, or a third-party has inadvertently produced the privileged document. The party asserting inadvertent production must provide written notice to all parties on the Master Case List via electronic mail or as otherwise provided herein that the party claims the document, in whole or in party, to be privileged or protected material; in addition, such notice must state the nature of the privilege or protection and the factual basis for asserting it. No assertion of inadvertent production will be made less than thirty (30) days before trial or fourteen (14) days after service of a trial exhibit list, whichever comes later.
(2) Upon receipt of such notice, all parties who have received copies of the document shall, within five (5) days thereafter, confer with the producing party and discuss how to resolve the issue. If no agreement is reached, the producing party may request reasonable relief from the Court, including an order that all copies of inadvertently produced documents shall be returned to the producing party, destroyed or otherwise be made available for procurement by the requesting party. Parties who received copies of inadvertently produced documents may oppose the granting of such relief on any permissible basis, including requesting an order that the inadvertently produced documents are not privileged and do not constitute protected attorney work product.
(3) In the event that only part of a document is claimed to be privileged or protected, the party asserting inadvertent production shall furnish to all parties redacted copies of such document, removing only the part(s) thereof claimed to be privileged or protected, together with such written notice.
e. Mutual Use of Discovery.
To help avoid redundancy, all discovery served by any party inure to the benefit of and are enforceable by any other party. The settlement, release or dismissal by any means of any party propounding such discovery will not in any way limit or extinguish any other party's obligation to comply with the discovery.
5. Motion Practice
Except as otherwise provided by the Court, pretrial motions in this litigation shall be governed by the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure and by the General Rules of
Practice for the District Courts, provided that these latter rules are modified procedurally as follows:
(1) Motion hearing dates shall be obtained directly from Jan Vohnoutka at Scott County Court Administration;
(2) Proposed orders for dispositive motions shall not be submitted unless specifically requested by the Court;
(3) The moving party shall provide a certification of an attempt to meet and confer to resolve their dispute, (such as is described in Rule 115.10 of the Rules of General Practice for the District Courts) which shall be in writing and shall be filed separately at least two (2) days prior to the hearing date.
Counsel shall attempt to coordinate a hearing date and the notice of motions for hearing on a date cleared with Jan Vohnoutka at Scott County Court Administration.
Nothing shall restrict any party's right to apply to the Court for an order shortening or extending time or page limitations on a motion upon a showing of good cause, but only after making good faith efforts to resolve the issue among counsel.
6. Coordination Among Parties
The Court expects cooperation among the parties to coordinate motion practice, discovery, trial, or otherwise to minimize the expense in this litigation. The parties shall, to the maximum extent practicable, avoid duplicative motions, briefs and discovery ("filings") consistent with each party's individual interests. Since many parties have a commonality of interest as to many issues in the actions, they may serve joint discovery and file joint submissions with the Court and/or adopt, join in or support any motion made or discovery propounded by another party simply by so noting in writing.
Each party has an affirmative duty to immediately notify the involved party upon receipt of any misdirected attorney/client or other privileged communication or work product document, outside the ordinary course of discovery. Upon written request, the receiving party shall either (a) return such communication or other document, along with any and all copies, to the involved party, or (b) provide correspondence or affidavit to the involved party attesting to the fact that such communication or documents and all copies thereof have been destroyed.
The parties will use reasonable efforts to schedule depositions by agreement. To that end, the parties will participate in bi-weekly discovery conferences by telephone for the purpose of making best efforts to select mutually convenient dates and places for the initial round of depositions, identifying witnesses and arranging other matters. Unless otherwise agreed, formal notice of scheduled depositions is required. Unless exigent circumstances exist, the parties will be advised of a deposition at least ten (10) calendar days before a deposition is scheduled to commence.
b. Non-Party Depositions.
Counsel shall attempt to resolve with any non-party deponent the identification for production and subsequent production of any documents being subpoenaed. Whenever possible, this process shall be completed no later than seven (7) days before the date on which the deposition has been scheduled. All counsel shall be given notice of any documents identified for production pursuant to subpoena and shall have the right to inspect and copy, at each inspecting party's expense, whatever documents are produced by a non-party in response to a subpoena.
Upon request, a party shall conduct a search of all records that may disclose the present address of any former employee and shall provide such information to the requesting party as soon as practicable. Nothing in this Order shall preclude any party, if it so chooses, from obtaining the attendance of any former employee or officer of another party for deposition by subpoena in the first instance.
Unless otherwise noted on the record, the following stipulations shall apply to all depositions in these actions:
(1) Any objection by a single party shall be deemed an objection by each and every similarly situated party;
(2) Corrections to a deposition transcript shall be listed on an errata sheet, copies of which shall be served on all parties by counsel for the deponent or the deponent, within thirty (30) days following receipt of the deposition transcript;
(3) To the extent practicable, exhibits shall be attached to the original transcript. Where the form or volume of exhibits makes attachment to the transcript impractical, the custody of such exhibits shall be maintained at the office of the attorney taking the deposition or the court reporter and such exhibits shall, after reasonable notice, be subject to inspection and copying by any party during normal business hours or by appointment;
(4) The parties shall strive to select and retain court reporters that can produce transcripts in both manuscript and computer-readable format, other agreed format. The parties may stipulate to maintain an online repository for all depositions taken in these cases subject to limitations on accessibility as may be determined by the parties.
With respect to aged or infirm witnesses, counsel shall abide by the reasonable request of such witnesses with regard to timing and availability for deposition testimony. The parties will undertake all reasonable efforts to conduct depositions in an efficient, cost-effective and expedited manner.
e. Attendance and Interrogation.
All parties shall be entitled to be represented at every deposition and to inquire of a deponent through their counsel. A former employee or officer may be represented at his or her deposition by counsel for the former employer. In order to facilitate necessary arrangement for attending counsel, not less than two (2) days prior to the commencement date of a deposition, any counsel intending to attend the deposition shall use its best efforts to notify the noticing party and counsel for the deponent.
f. Time and Location of Depositions.
Depositions may be held Monday through Friday, and shall commence no earlier than 9:00 a.m., and conclude no later than 5:00 p.m. local time, unless otherwise agreed between counselor ordered by the Court. No deposition shall be scheduled for more than two (2) consecutive days absent agreement by the parties or order of the Court. A deposition may, however, proceed for a third consecutive day without agreement of the parties or order of the Court if there is at least eighteen (18) hours between the end of the second deposition day and the commencement of the third. To save expense and travel time, all sessions of the deposition of a single deponent shall, to the extent consistent with the witnesses' schedule and health and the deposition schedule, and unless otherwise agreed, proceed on successive weekdays and for the full deposition day until completion. Except as the parties may agree, no deposition shall be scheduled on the following dates: Court hearing dates, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday, President's Day, Good Friday, Passover (the first two days), Memorial Day, Independence Day (including the preceding Monday if it falls on a Tuesday or the following Friday if it falls on a Thursday), Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah (two days), Yom Kippur (two days), Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). Depositions of witnesses residing outside the United States shall not be scheduled on national holidays in the witness' home country. In addition, no depositions shall be scheduled between December 21, 2009 and January 4, 2010 except upon agreement of the parties.
g. Out of State Depositions.
In order to facilitate the orderly taking of any such foreign deposition, the
Court hereby orders commissions to be granted to take out of state depositions of parties and non-party witnesses, at such times and in such places as are agreed upon by counsel, such commissions to be issued to persons duly authorized by the law of the foreign state to take such testimony. This Order appointing commissions to take foreign depositions shall be applicable to all out of state depositions taken in this action, without the need for any party to file any additional motion for appointment of a commission to take any out of state deposition. The parties will provide the Court with a template order, or otherwise with other necessary appropriate orders respecting the appointment of commissions.
To the extent practicable, all parties intending to question a witness at a deposition with respect to documents shall provide a reasonable number of copies of such documents for the use of the other parties in attendance at the deposition. Exhibits should be identified by the name of the witness and numbered consecutively in each deposition.
The only objections that shall be raised at any deposition are those involving a privilege or other protection against disclosure or some matter that may be remedied at the time, such as to the form of the question, that the question has previously been asked and clearly answered, or the responsiveness of the answers. Objections on any other grounds shall be avoided and are not waived but preserved until trial. All objections shall be concise and must not suggest answers to the deponent. So called "speaking objections" are not permitted. Except as to an objection on grounds of privilege, any objection made by one party reserves that objection for all other parties and duplicate objections shall not be made.
j. Directions to Deponent Notto Answer.
Directions to a deponent not to answer are improper except on the grounds of privilege, confidentiality, or other similar protection, or to enable the party or deponent to present a motion to the Court for termination of the deposition or protection such as under Minnesota Rule of Procedure 26.03. When privilege, confidentiality or other protection is claimed, the witness shall nevertheless answer questions relevant to the existence, extent or waiver of the privilege, confidentiality, or other protection.
k. Immediate Presentation of Deposition Disputes.
Consistent with discovery concepts and objectives set forth above, if disputes arise during a deposition which the attorneys cannot resolve by agreement and which, if not promptly decided, will critically disrupt the discovery program or court-imposed schedules, the parties may submit the matter orally by telephone to the undersigned if available.
8. Avoidance of Unnecessary Duplication
Cooperation and communication among parties as ordered herein shall not constitute the waiver of any applicable privilege or be construed as evidence of wrongful conduct. In the event that any party is in genuine doubt about the legal effect of the communication and cooperation ordered herein, such party may seek the Court's clarification of the party's responsibilities before proceeding.
9. No Waiver of Privilege Due to Joint Efforts
Communications in connection with this case between and among counsel for the parties and/or their clients, including the exchange of documents and information, shall be deemed subject to the attorney/client privilege, work product protection, and any other applicable privilege or protection to the same extent as if the communication had taken place within one law firm or between one law firm and one client represented by that firm. Protection afforded by this Order will survive the conclusion of this litigation and the dismissal of any party from this action. If a party withdraws from any cooperative litigation efforts with other parties, previous communications among the withdrawing party and such other parties and all work product shared by or with the withdrawing party with respect to this action, will remain subject to any attorney/client privilege, work product protection, or other privilege that attached at the time the communications were made or the work product was shared. Any such withdrawing party is under a duty not to reveal information obtained through such cooperative efforts.
10. Rules and Procedures
This CMO supersedes any provision of the Minnesota Rules of Civil procedure
and General Rules of Practice for the District Court that are in conflict with the provisions of this CMO.
11. CMO Binding on Subsequently Added Parties
Any new party to this consolidated action after the date the CMO is entered up to and including February 16, 2010 shall be served with a copy of this CMO by Liaison Counsel and any subsequent Case Management Orders. Any such new party will be bound by this CMO and all other Case Management Orders unless it files a motion for relief with the Court within ten (10) days after service of this CMO and other case management order upon it. Upon the addition of any party to this action, the party adding the new party shall serve a copy of this CMO on counsel for the new party within five (5) days of the date of receiving notice of the identity of the new party's counsel.
12. Liaison Counsel
In recognition of the large numbers of prosecutors, petitioners, and defendants in this action and to promote sufficient communication between and among the parties and the Court, the parties will appoint counsel to serve as Liaison Counsel, designated as follows:
Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice - Source Code Coalition
Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice - Source Code Coalition
Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice - Source Code Coalition
Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice - Source Code Coalition
Minnesota Attorney General's Office
Minnesota Attorney General's Office
Subject to the right of any party to present individual or divergent positions, the liaison counsel is vested by this Court with the following responsibilities and duties:
(1) Communicate with opposing counsel, communicate with all other counsel in its respective liaison group and receive orders, notices and correspondence from this Court and the District Court Administrator in any matter pertaining to this action;
(2) Promptly forward to all counsel for its respective liaison group copies of all documents from the Court or the District Court Administrator, not otherwise provided to them electronically, report to all counsel in the represented group on all meetings and communications with this Court or other liaison counsel;
(3) Organize and schedule meetings of counsel for joint action;
(4) Coordinate common discovery;
(5) Initiate action by the Court to remedy disputes among the parties;
(6) Participate in conference calls with this Court to resolve disputes and scheduling matters;
(7) Maintain a current copy of the Master Case List, and serve and file any updated Master Case Lists; and
(8) Perform such other duties as may be expressly authorized by further order of this Court or agreed to by counsel.
Liaison counsel shall not be deemed to speak for, act for, or bind any particular litigant or group of litigants absent express authority provided by such litigant or group.All counsel of record shall have an opportunity to present to this Court their respective views and opinions as to matters before this Court. The liaison counsel shall not be liable for any actions arising from their respective roles as such and this Court shall act to remedy any inadvertence as appropriate.
13. Pro Hac Vice Admission of Attorneys
Any lawyer admitted or currently licensed to practice before a Court of general jurisdiction in any state in the United States and who is specifically associated with a currently licensed Minnesota lawyer may be deemed admitted pro hac vice to practice before the Court in this litigation only. Other than those attorneys admitted pro hac vice prior to the date of issuance of this Order, attorneys may be deemed admitted pro hac vice upon completion of the following:
A. An Affidavit Setting Forth:
(1) His or her full name and non-Minnesota business address;
(2) His or her date and place of each state licensure;
(3) A representation that the affiant's license to practice law is current and is not under revocation, suspension, restriction or limitation in any other state of admission or in the federal courts, and that the affiant is an attorney in good standing in all states of licensure;
(4) A representation that the affiant is, or will promptly become, familiar with all applicable Minnesota court rules, procedures and requirements of professional conduct, and will follow and abide by such rules, procedures and requirements.
B. A Notice of Pro Hac Vice Representation Selling Forth:
(1) The non-Minnesota lawyer's full name and non-Minnesota business address, telephone number, facsimile number, and e-mail address;
(2) The name, address, telephone number, facsimile number and e-mail address of the Minnesota lawyer or law firm with whom the attorney will associate for purposes of this litigation;
(3) The name of each party whom the attorney will represent.
Such affidavit and notice of pro hac vice representation shall be filed with the Court Administrator of the originating county of the case within the First judicial District.
Notice of pro hac vice representation shall be served upon all counsel on the Master Case List.
14. Status Conferences and Scheduling
a. Status Conferences.
General status conferences shall be held at 1:30 p.m. every other Friday as needed from December 11, 2009 (excluding December 25, 2009) until no longer needed. The principal purpose of the general status conference is to discuss and resolve administrative issues common to all parties. Issues that affect only specific parties and that have no significant implications for other parties will be calendared for a separate hearing date or, if the status conference agenda permits, for 2:30 p.m. on a status conference date.
Not later than the preceding Friday before the status conference, liaison counsel shall confer and shall determine whether or not a status conference for the following Friday will be necessary. If they agree that such conference is not necessary, they shall cancel the conference and promptly notify the Court and the remaining parties of the cancellation. Ifliaison counsel decides to proceed with the status conference, they shall prepare a common agenda and shall notify all parties and the Court thereof not later than the close of the business day on the Monday preceding the conference date.
In recognition of the complexity of the issues before the Court, the Court will discuss the progress of the parties in discovery and other matters at the status conferences and upon application of the parties jointly or unilaterally may amend or modify the scheduling order from time to time.
The following dates and deadlines shall apply to all actions subject to this CMO:
February 16, 2010- Petitioner expert disclosure deadline; non-expert discovery ends; final date for adding new cases to docket of consolidated cases
April 2, 2010- Respondent expert disclosure deadline
April 6, 2010 - Expert discovery begins
April 19, 2010 - All non source code pre trial issues are to be resolved
May 3,2010 - Expert discovery concludes
May 10-21, 2010 - Final hearing on source code issue
Dated 12.1.09 by The Court: Jerome B. Abrams, Judge of District Court
State of Minnesota, District Court
County of First Judicial District
Petitioner vs. Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent
Court File No.
WHEREAS, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has entered a
Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction regarding access to the source code used in the operation of the Intoxilyzer SOOOEN ("Source Code"), the breath-alcohol testing instrument used to enforce the driving while impaired ("DWI") and implied consent laws in Minnesota. This Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction requires issuance of a Protective Order as a precondition to obtaining access to the Source Code; and
WHEREAS, this Court has ordered that the Source Code be made available for inspection and review or has found the Source Code to be relevant or material in the above-captioned case; and
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
1. As used in this Protective Order, the listed terms have the following meanings:
"Attorneys" means counsel of record in this matter;
"Confidential" documents and information are documents or information designated Confidential pursuant to Paragraph 2 herein; and
"Source Code" refers specifically to the Source Code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN used in the State of Minnesota.
2. A Party may designate any document "Confidential," including interrogatory responses, other discovery responses, or transcripts, based on a good faith belief that the document constitutes or contains trade secrets or other confidential information. Source Code is hereby designated as Confidential, except for that portion of the Source Code assigned and delivered to the State pursuant to the Settlement Agreement between the State and CMI dated June 1, 2009.
3. All Confidential documents and information shall be used solely for the purpose of the above-captioned matter, or as otherwise permitted by the federal Consent
Judgment and Permanent Injunction.. No person receiving such documents or information shall, directly or indirectly, use, transfer, disclose, or communicate in any way Confidential documents or information to any person other than those specified in Paragraph 4 herein and the federal Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction.
4. Access to any Confidential document or information shall be limited to:
(a) The Court and its staff;
(b) Attorneys of record and their law finns;
(c) Persons shown on the face of the document to have authored or received it;
(d) Court reporters retained to transcribe testimony;
(e) The Parties to this case;
(f) Outside vendors (limited to professional copy services);
(g) Outside independent persons who are retained by or otherwise assist a
Party or its Attorneys to provide technical or expert services and/or give testimony in this action, and who are not, and have not been, employed by (as an employee, agent, or consultant) or otherwise affiliated with, any manufacturer of breath alcohol testing instruments within the preceding twenty-four (24) months.
5. Any outside independent person (as defined in Paragraph 4(g) herein) who receives access to the Source Code or other Confidential information shall execute a Non-Disclosure Agreement in the form prescribed in Paragraph 3(c) of the federal Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction before receiving access to the Source Code or Confidential Information. In addition, any Attorney or Party (as defined in Paragraphs 4(b) and (e) herein) who receives access to the Source Code shall also execute a NonDisclosure Agreement in the form prescribed in Paragraph 3(c) of the federal Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction before receiving access to the Source Code. Receipt of access to the Source Code pursuant to this Protective Order shall not constitute or convey any right, title, license, or other interest in any portion of the Source Code.
6. Non-parties producing documents in the course of this action may also designate documents as "Confidential" subject to the same protections and constraints as the Parties to this action. A copy of this Protective Order shall be served along with any subpoena served in connection with this action. All documents and information produced by such non-parties shall be treated as "Confidential" for a period of 15 days from the date of their production, and during that period any Party may designate such documents as "Confidential" pursuant to the terms of this Protective Order.
7. Any testimony or written report that contains Confidential documents or information will receive the same protections afforded to Confidential documents themselves. Confidentiality designations for testimony shall be made on the record or, where appropriate, by written notice to the other Party. It shall be the responsibility of the Party who noticed the deposition, called the witness, or seeks to introduce the evidence, to designate such testimony or information as Confidential. The testimony of any witness (or any portion of such testimony) that contains Confidential information shall be given only in the presence of persons who are qualified to have access to such information pursuant to Paragraph 4 herein.
8. Any Party or non-party that inadvertently fails to identify documents or information as Confidential in accordance with this Protective Order shall, upon discovery of its oversight, promptly provide written notice of the error and substitute appropriately designated documents or information. Any Party receiving notice of improperly designated documents or information shall act immediately to retrieve such documents or information from persons not entitled to receive such documents or information and shall return the improperly designated documents or information to the producing Party.
9. Any document designated Confidential or containing Confidential information that is filed with this Court, including any expert report, shall be filed under seal. Any Confidential information shall be redacted from such document or report before it is made publicly available.
10. No action taken in accordance with this Protective Order shall be construed to be a waiver of any claim or defense in the action or of any position as to discoverability or admissibility of any evidence in the case.
11. The obligations imposed by this Protective Order shall survive the termination of the above-captioned matter.
12. Any violation or breach of the terms and conditions set forth in this
Protective Order shall be grounds for any appropriate sanctions available under the law.
In August a SherburneCountyjury found my client innocent of all DWI charges in a blood test case. The state had reported his alcohol concentration was .16. We beat that case by showing the jury that the state did not follow the procedures necessary to ensure the results were valid, reliable and accurate. We also showed that our client was not impaired by alcohol.
Last week, an Anoka court ruled in favor of my client where his blood alcohol concentration was .19. “Andy” had rolled his pickup truck on I-35W in Blaine, Minnesota earlier this year. Because of his injuries, Andy was taken to the hospital where police ordered hospital staff to obtain a blood sample. An employee of the hospital staff complied. Police mailed the blood vials to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for analysis.
Under Minnesota’s Implied Consent Law, any person who has been trained as a physician, medical technician, emergency medical technician, registered nurse, medical technologist, medical technician-paramedic, medical laboratory technician, or laboratory assistant may administer a blood test.
In Andy’s case, the person who withdrew the blood was an “Emergency Department” Technician. ER Technician is not one of the enumerated qualified persons to draw blood under the implied consent statute. As a result the court held the blood test result inadmissible and rescinded my client’s driver’s license revocation.
Because the court ruled in our favor on that issue, the court did not need to address the other issues in the case: whether the officer denied my client the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to test or consent. I believe either of these other issues would have been meritorious.
Of the three types of DWI alcohol tests used by Minnesota – blood, breath and urine – I see blood tests the least. This is probably due to the added time and expense required to go to the hospital where a medical professional must draw the blood, and the delay in receiving the results.
While blood tests are the most difficult to beat in a DWI case, the moral of this story is that blood tests can be beaten if challenged by a very competent attorney.
I regularly beat urine and breath tests as well. If you’ve been charged with a DWI or DUI as a result of a blood, breath or urine test, call Chuck Ramsay immediately.
On November 24th, 2009 the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office filed a Memorandum in Support of Motion of Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety for Asignment of Implied Consent Cases to a Single Judge or Panel of Judges in the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota.The Attorney General alleges that such assignment is appropriate because the cases involve common questions of fact and have a special need for coordinated judicial management.The Minnesota Source Code Coalition support consolidation.
In each of the implied consent cases, the petitioner has challenged the reliability of his or her Intoxilyzer 5000EN test result based on their belief that reviewing the source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN will reveal a material defect affecting the instrument’s ability to produce accurate alcohol concentration results.I have addressed the flaws of the Intoxilyzer in past blog entries.
The Chisago County Court Administrator’s office notified my office today that it was consolidating the county’s source code cases into one hearing. The hearing is scheduled to be heard on May 5, 2010.
Coincidentally, Anoka County has scheduled its consolidated source code hearing for the same date. Chisago County seemed unaware of this. I do not know whether Chisago will reschedule the hearing. Since Chisago County is in the Tenth Judicial District with Anoka County (along with the counties of Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Sherburne, Washington, and Wright), perhaps the district will consolidate the entire district’s hearings. In my opinion, this would save judicial resources and be more efficient for the courts and litigants.
On July 1, 2009, Minnesota implemented a statewide pilot Ignition Interlock program. This program allows drivers who have had their licenses revoked, cancelled, suspended or withdrawn due to multiple DWI convictions or revocations get their licenses back earlier, if they agree to install an ignition interlock device on their car.
This is the first sensible move by Minnesota in the DWI arena in decades. Until now the Department of Public Safety had a policy that made no sense. It preferred people to drive without a valid license – knowing people must drive on many occasions – than fashioning a workable solution to Minnesota’s drunk driving problem. This allows citizens to drive to work, school and other places legally while at the same time ensuring our roads are same for our loved ones. Bravo DPS!
According to a Duluth news outlet 400 DWI offenders have already participated in Minnesota’s Ignition Interlock Program. Some benefits to this program include driving sooner, being able to drive to work, school, or wherever you need, avoiding future DWIs, driving legally and quite possibly saving money by being able to drive your own vehicle in lieu of cabs, bus fare, or saving the hassles of having to ask others to drive somewhere for you. There are potential disadvantages, whether it is worth it for you to enroll will depend on your needs, preferences and level of offense. You will also have to have to bring your vehicle for monthly maintenance appointments so that engine start information can be downloaded into a report format.
The ignition interlock is a small device that is installed into the vehicle and is used to measure an individual’s alcohol concentration. If the driver has been drinking and blows into the tube and registers a high alcohol concentration level the vehicle will not start. The device will also trigger random retests as the vehicle is driven to ensure that alcohol has not been consumed while operating the vehicle.
It remains to be seen what if any flaws exist in the program which may cause a device to erroneously stop one’s automobile.
For your convenience, I’ve posted Minnesota Statute sections 171.305 and 171.306 in their entirety below:
171.305 IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE.
"Ignition interlock device" or "device" means breath alcohol ignition equipment designed to prevent a motor vehicle's ignition from being started by a person whose alcohol concentration exceeds the calibrated setting on the device.
Subd. 3.Performance standards.
The commissioner shall specify performance standards for ignition interlock devices, including standards relating to accuracy, safe operation of the vehicle, and degree of difficulty rendering the device inoperative. The interlock ignition device must be designed to operate from a 12-volt DC vehicle battery and be capable of locking a motor vehicle's ignition when a minimum alcohol concentration of 0.020 grams of ethyl alcohol per 210 liters of breath is introduced into the device. The device must also require a breath sample to determine alcohol concentration at variable time intervals ranging from five to 30 minutes while the engine is running. The device must also be capable of recording information for later review that includes the date and time of any use of the vehicle or any attempt to use the vehicle, including all times that the vehicle engine was started or stopped and the alcohol concentration of each breath sample provided.
The commissioner shall certify ignition interlock devices that meet the performance standards and may charge the manufacturer of the ignition interlock device a certification fee. A manufacturer who submits a device for certification must provide an application for certification on a form prescribed by the department.
Subd. 5.Issuance of limited license.
The commissioner may issue a limited license to a person whose driver's license has been canceled and denied due to an alcohol or controlled substance-related incident under section 171.04, subdivision 1, clause (10), under the following conditions:
(1) at least one-half of the person's required abstinence period has expired;
(2) the person has successfully completed chemical dependency treatment and is currently participating in a generally recognized support group based on ongoing abstinence; and
(3) the person agrees to drive only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning and certified ignition interlock device.
The ignition interlock device must be monitored for proper use and accuracy by an entity approved by the commissioner.
The commissioner shall require that the person issued a limited license under subdivision 5 pay all costs associated with use of the device.
Subd. 8.Proof of installation.
A person approved for a limited license must provide proof of installation prior to issuance of the limited license.
(a) A person who knowingly lends, rents, or leases a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device to a person with a limited license issued under subdivision 5 is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) A person who tampers with, circumvents, or bypasses the ignition interlock device, or assists another to tamper with, circumvent, or bypass the device, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) The penalties of this subdivision do not apply if the action was taken for emergency purposes or for mechanical repair, and the person limited to the use of an ignition interlock device does not operate the motor vehicle while the device is disengaged.
Subd. 10.Cancellation of limited license.
The commissioner shall cancel a limited license issued under this section if the device registers a positive reading for use of alcohol or the person violates any conditions of the limited license.
Subd. 11.Program standards.
The program standards applicable to section 171.306 also apply to this section.
The commissioner shall conduct a statewide two-year ignition interlock device pilot project as provided in this section. The pilot project must begin on July 1, 2009, and continue until June 30, 2011. The commissioner shall submit a preliminary report by September 30, 2010, and a final report by September 30, 2011, to the chairs and ranking minority members of the senate and house of representatives committees having jurisdiction over criminal justice policy and funding. The reports must evaluate the successes and failures of the pilot project, provide information on participation rates, and make recommendations on continuing the project.
Subd. 2.Performance standards; certification.
The commissioner shall determine appropriate performance standards and a certification process for ignition interlock devices for the pilot project. Only devices certified by the commissioner as meeting the performance standards may be used in the pilot project.
Subd. 3.Pilot project components.
(a) Under the pilot project, the commissioner shall issue a driver's license to an individual whose driver's license has been revoked under chapter 169A for an impaired driving incident if the person qualifies under this section and agrees to all of the conditions of the project.
(b) The commissioner must denote the person's driver's license record to indicate the person's participation in the program. The license must authorize the person to drive only vehicles having functioning ignition interlock devices conforming with the requirements of subdivision 2.
(c) Notwithstanding any statute or rule to the contrary, the commissioner has authority to and shall determine the appropriate period for which a person participating in the ignition interlock pilot program shall be subject to this program, and when the person is eligible to be issued:
(1) a limited driver's license subject to the ignition interlock restriction;
(2) full driving privileges subject to the ignition interlock restriction; and
(3) a driver's license without an ignition interlock restriction.
(d) A person participating in this pilot project shall agree to participate in any treatment recommended by a chemical use assessment.
(e) The commissioner shall determine guidelines for participation in the project. A person participating in the project shall sign a written agreement accepting these guidelines and agreeing to comply with them.
(f) It is a misdemeanor for a person who is licensed under this section for driving a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle other than a vehicle properly equipped with an ignition interlock device.
Until now, Pennsylvania hospitals would analyze blood samples for DWI alcohol testing at the request of police utilizing “enzymatic testing,” a method widely considered by forensic scientists to be invalid, unreliable and inaccurate. Despite this, the state took citizens’ driver’s licenses and put them in jail based solely on enzymatic testing of blood samples.
The story behind the change in hospital policy is interesting. Mr. McShane had regularly obtained court orders which placed the hospital labs under great scrutiny and drained significant resources. The scrutiny jeopardized the hospitals' lab accreditation with scientific organizations when McShane exposed the unscientific methods. The loss of accreditation would have been extremely costly to the hospitals. In the end, rather than risk the loss of their accreditation under further intense scrutiny and exposure, the hospitals and clinics have informed police they will not longer analyze the blood samples.
Police will now likely send blood samples to the state crime lab to be analyzed using the Gas Chromatography – the gold standard of blood testing if administered and evaluated properly. It remains to be seen what effect this implicit admission will have on pending cases.
Minnesota does not recognize the enzymatic method for DWI blood testing. It uses the Gas Chromatography to measure the amount of alcohol in drivers’ blood. Coincidentally, Justin and I spent this week in Chicago at a hands-on science course entitled, Gas Chromatography: Fundamentals, Troubleshooting, and Method Development. The other attorneys attending the course were Andrew Alpert, Tyler Flood, Roderick Frechette, Stephen Hamilton, Josh Lee, Donald Ramsell and Michael Solak.
If you have been accused of having a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit, call Chuck Ramsay immediately for the best possible DWI legal representation in Minnesota.
At the heart of the matter is the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 5000 and whether or not this machine accurately measures a person’s alcohol concentration under Minnesota's DWI laws. This is the machine used state wide. I have addressed the flaws of the Intoxilyzer 5000 in past blog entries.
At yesterday’s mass hearing, coalition attorneys told Judge Abrams that they had hired Computer Forensics Services to review the source code as allowed under the federal court settlement. This would take approximately 2-3 months and will be done at CMI headquarters in Kentucky.
Judge Abrams decided he would schedule one mass hearing for next spring, to determine whether the breath test machine is reliable after the findings of the source code review. The hearing which includes 286 civil cases and 238 criminal cases (and growing) throughout the First Judicial District is expected to last anywhere from one to three weeks.
Other District Courts may join the First Judicial Districts in this hearing or conduct mass hearings of their own on the reliability and accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000.
On October 21, 2009 an order issued by the Honorable Jerome Abrams was filed by the First Judicial District which sets an agenda for a scheduling conference on November 4, 2009 to discuss factors in the on-going Source Code dispute. Judge Abrams has been assigned to this matter by Order of the Chief and Judge of the First Judicial District pursuant to minn.stat. §484.69, subd.3. Minnesota’s First Judicial District is comprised of the following counties: Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, LeSueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley.
This hearing will address how the First Judicial District Court of Minnesota will proceed in the Source Code Evidentiary Hearings in Implied Consent and Criminal matters. Key topics in source code evidence such as source code disclosures, timing of disclosures, identifying all experts for the defendant, petitioner and State, and expert opinion disclosures/reports along with additional fact disclosure will be determined. To read the complete agenda please see the Order Setting Agenda for Hearing dated 10.21.09.
This mass Source Code Scheduling Conference will more than likely take an entire day and will consolidate 286 civil cases and 238 criminal cases. While the idea of doing a ‘mass’ hearing seems logical at first – saving judicial resources, time and expenses – one has to ask – what expense does each individual face?
Anoka County became the latest county in the state of Minnesota to consolidate its breath test cases involving the battle over its source code.The hearing for civil cases is set for May 5, 2010.Criminal cases will be heard May 26, 2010.
AnokaCounty is in the Tenth Judicial District, which is comprised of Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Sherburne, Washington, and WrightCounties.
The other counties that have consolidated cases are HennepinCounty, and the entire First Judicial District (comprised of Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, LeSueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley counties).
Chief Judge of Ramsey County, Judge Gearing, sent a letter last month to Chief Justice Eric Magnuson requesting that the state consolidate all the Intoxilyzer cases within the state.Chief Justice Magnuson’s decision, if any, has been made public as of this writing.
Since at least as early as 1952, Minnesota's courts have held scientific techniques to a high standard before they could be admitted in a court case.Scientific evidence can be admitted only after passing what is called the “Frye-Mack” test.
The Frye-Mack test is simple on its face: the proponent of scientific evidence must first demonstrate the scientific community generally accepts the science before it can be admitted. The rationale behind such an analysis is to both insure that judges do not play the role of amateur scientist when evaluating scientific evidence, and to provide uniformity of rulings across the state.
Earlier this year a Minnesota judge found in one of my cases that Urine testing in Minnesota does not pass the Frye-Mack test and did not permit the test results into evidence.This is the only known Urine Frye-Mack hearing in Minnesota … ever!
Last month, one our firm’s attorneys, Dan Koewler, convinced another judge to grant a Frye-Mack hearing.The state opposed our motion.The judge’s urine test order can be found here.That hearing to determine whether Minnesota’s DWI urine tests are generally accepted in the scientific community will be held soon.
New Jersey Attorney, Evan Levow, reported that today a judge threw out the 0.14 breath test result in New Jersey v. Chun.Chun was the name of the lead defendant in New Jersey’s state-wide battle over its new breath test machine.Mr. Levow has represented Ms. Chun throughout the process.
Although the first four and 1/2 years of pre-trial litigation focused on whether the Draeger Alcotest was scientifically reliable – which included analysis of the machine’s source code – the judged suppressed the test based on the officer's failure to follow proper procedures for changing the mouth piece. (Both the manufacturer and the head of the Alcotest program testified in the state wide hearings that the mouthpiece must be changed after each breath sample, which wasn't done.)
Last weekend members of the Minnesota Source Code Coalition met with our experts to plan our examination of the software in Kentucky at CMI Headquarters. We were to begin by reviewing the hard-bound written copy of the source code which CMI was to provide under the Federal Source Code Settlement.
Upon opening the book, we were shocked to discover that CMI had blacked out 99 pages of the printed version of the software!
Although the federal settlement permitted CMI to redact passwords, our experts tell us CMI blacked out entire pages of the software. The redacted code includes critical information necessary to analyze the software.
Judge Frank ordered CMI “to make printed, hardbound copies of the complete Source Code (subject to the redaction of security and passcode features described herein) available in Minnesota.” (Click for Judge Frank’s entire order).
It is clear CMI is playing games. The company has made it tough enough by requiring our experts to travel to Kentucky to review the actual source code at their headquarters during regular business hours. Given the other limitations, we expect a review to take up to three months.
The August 26, 2009 transcript includes new revelations of the source code/software problem which erroneously accuses drivers of refusing to take an alcohol test. Refusal is a crime under Minnesota’s DWI laws, which I’ve addressed previously in my blog and on my website.
The transcript of the testimony of a BCA forensic scientist reveals:
The BCA is aware of the “potential” problem with the Intoxilyzer rejecting what should be an acceptable sample;
CMI, the Intoxilyzer 5000’s manufacturer, provided the BCA with a software patch to correct the problem;
The BCA did not test or install the corrected version of the software;
The state chose not to test or install the software was to avoid enflaming the “source code” issue;
The BCA employee speculates that cost may have also been a factor in the decision to not test or upgrade the flawed software.
Here is an Excerpt of the transcript:
Q: So we are aware of a problem with the current version of software that would reject what might be otherwise valid breath sample, right?
A: Potentially, not definitely.
Q: And the CMI provided BCA with a fix that purportedly corrected that problem, right?
Q: And instead of testing it, the BCA shelved it, correct?
A: We did not test it, correct.
Q: And one of the reasons was because the BCA did not want to inflame the Source Code issue; is that right?
A: … [T]hat was at least part of the decision, but I don't know that that was the exclusive decision. I mean, there's also the incredible cost and time involved, and doing a software change, and ultimately we've been asking for money for three years for new instruments when we were hoping we would get that.
Q: What would be the cost of fixing this problem with the software?
A: The actual cost is in time and travel.
Q: How much would that be?
A: Several thousand, but I don't know.
Q: Several thousand dollars?
A: Several thousand, yes.
Q: How do you think that balances against people being erroneously deemed a refusal to test?
A: That would be my opinion. My opinion is I don't believe that I can tell you what the value of the State's money is. I don't think I can answer that question.
The home state supreme court of Intoxilyzer Manufacturer CMI, Inc. has rejected a driver's claim for the source code under Kentucky's version of a subpeona duces tecum. The court refused to determine whether drivers are entitled to inspect the software under the constitution's confrontation clause. In doing so, the court reversed the state's lowe court of appeals decision in State v. House.
House does not affect Minnesota litigation. Our State Supreme Court has already ruled that the source code is discoverable in State v. Brunner. In addition, the prcedural rules of Minnesota are much broader than Kentucky. The House court noted that subpeonas are "meant to permit pre-trial inspection of evidence to be admitted at trial. It is not meant to be a discovery device..." Such is not the case in Minnesota.
Today a Washington County District Court Judge ordered the government to return a vehicle seized more than two years ago. The city seized the new "Hummer" when my client was arrested for DWI – refusing to submit to a breath test. This was my client’s second arrest in ten years. He has not been convicted in either case. When a judge overturned the prior license revocation earlier this year, the state no longer had a basis to hold the vehicle in this case.
Although the prosecutor acknowledged that it had to return the truck, she conditioned the return of the vehicle on payment of $800 in storage fees. Although the city had kept the Hummer on its property and incurred no costs, it insisted on making a profit despite losing the case. The judge shot down the government’s position and ordered the city to return the vehicle without costs.
We're fighting to expose Minnesota's source code lawsuit for the sham it is. To be successful, we need the help of the country's top experts. One of the most valuable team members is Tom Workman from Boston, Massachusetts.
1.Under normal circumstances an expert would need about three months to examine the Intoxilyzer’s source code. But, under the limitations of the proposed settlement, the same expert would need 30 years to conduct the same examination!
2.Known Fatal flaws in the Minnesota Software have and continue to produce erroneous results. The state crime lab is aware of the bugs in the source code, yet has refused to install the corrected version provided by CMI.
3.An expert in copyright law, Mr. Workman demonstrates how CMI transferred ownership of the software to the State of Minnesota under the original contract.
4.Federal patent statutes prevent CMI from asserting the software is a trade secret without violating federal law.
The Minnesota Source Code War would not be possible without the resolve of the members of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice; my dedicated staff at Charles A. Ramsay & Associates, PLLC; and Thomas Workman. Also, thanks to Attorney Ryan Garry for generously donating his time and expertise. Please obtain Mr. Workman’s permission before using his declaration.
Check back soon for more information, documents and analysis as the Minnesota Source Code War continues to rage …
Roseville DUI Defense Lawyers & Attorneys Chuck Ramsay & Dan Koewler of Ramsay Law Firm, offering services related to DUI, DWI, criminal defense, license revocation, vehicle forfeiture, murder, domestic violence, drug crimes and sex offenses, serving Minneapolis, St. Paul, Anoka, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Cottage Grove, Eden Prairie, Edina, Golden Valley, White Bear Lake, Woodbury, Inver Grove Heights, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Minnetonka, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Stillwater and greater Minnesota.