McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Decision Date02 October 1990
Docket NumberC5-90-478 and C0-90-842,C7-90-224,Nos. C6-90-53,C1-90-249,s. C6-90-53
Citation460 N.W.2d 363
PartiesLisa Kay McDONNELL, Petitioner, Respondent, v. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant. Cindy Jean MOSER, Petitioner, Respondent, v. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant. Troy Eugene WEEDING, Petitioner, Respondent, v. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellant. STATE of Minnesota, Appellant, v. Keith Arnold DRIVER, Respondent. STATE of Minnesota, Appellant, v. Michael Joseph McCAULEY, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Court of Appeals

Syllabus by the Court

1. The sixth amendment right to counsel has not attached when a driver is read the implied consent advisory.

2. The assignment of criminal liability to a driver's choice of refusing testing does not require extending fifth amendment protections under either the federal or state constitution.

3. The language of the implied consent advisory, informing a driver he or she "may" be subject to criminal penalties for refusing testing, is not unconstitutionally vague.

4. The language of the implied consent advisory is reasonable, and not so misleading to either repeat or first-time DWI offenders as to require rescission of revocation.

5. The criminal refusal provisions do not violate equal protection.

Jeffrey S. Sheridan, Inver Grove Heights, for petitioner, respondent McDonnell.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., Paul R. Kempainen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Joel A. Watne and Jacquelyn E. Albright, Joseph Plumer, Sp. Asst. Attys. Gen., St. Paul, for appellant Com'r of Public Safety.

Steven J. Meshbesher, John J. Leunig, Meshbesher Birrell & Dunlap, Ltd., Minneapolis, for petitioner, respondent, Moser.

Theodore D. Dooley, Minneapolis, Steven L. Bergeson, Bergeson, Lander & Megarry, P.A., Bloomington, for petitioner, respondent, Weeding.

Dean S. Grau, Minneapolis, Robert J. Patient, St. Paul, for respondent Driver.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., Paul R. Kempainen, Asst. Atty. Gen., Joseph Plumer, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, James T. Reuter, Chisago County Atty., Center City, Michael E. Molenda, Annette M. Margarit, Severson, Wilcox & Sheldon, P.A., Apple Valley City Attys., Apple Valley, for appellant State.

David G. Roston, Segal & Roston, Minneapolis, for respondent, McCauley.

Considered and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

FOLEY, Judge.

These appeals were combined for purposes of oral argument. They present constitutional challenges to the criminal refusal statute and the implied consent advisory. Minn.Stat. § 169.121, subd. 1a, § 169.123, subd. 2(b) (Supp.1989). The trial courts in the individual cases found the statutes unconstitutional, on differing grounds and either dismissed the criminal prosecutions or rescinded the driver's license revocations. We reverse and remand for further proceedings in each case.

FACTS

The facts of each of these individual cases are of limited relevance to the constitutional and statutory issues presented. There is, for example, no issue as to the legality of the investigative stops, or the officers' compliance with the statute in reading the implied consent advisory. We state the facts only briefly to describe the trial court decisions and to frame the discussion which follows.

State v. McCauley

Michael Joseph McCauley was stopped after allegedly being clocked driving at over 80 mph. The police report states McCauley admitted having had three beers. He refused to take the portable breath test, and after being read the advisory, he refused testing.

McCauley was charged with gross misdemeanor DWI, gross misdemeanor refusal, misdemeanor DWI and speeding. He moved to dismiss the refusal charge on constitutional grounds. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that the implied consent advisory and the criminal refusal statute were unconstitutionally vague, but rejecting McCauley's other constitutional arguments. The state appeals.

State v. Driver

Keith Arnold Driver was allegedly stopped for speeding. After allegedly failing the field sobriety tests and the portable breath test, Driver was read the implied consent advisory in the squad car and refused to take a breath test.

Driver was charged with two counts of gross misdemeanor DWI and one count of gross misdemeanor refusal. He moved to dismiss for lack of probable cause, and moved to dismiss the refusal charge based on the unconstitutionality of the statute. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause, but granted the motion to dismiss the refusal charge. The state appeals.

McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Lisa Kay McDonnell was stopped by an officer who observed her driving erratically. The officer observed indicia of intoxication and arrested McDonnell for DWI. He transported her to the police department, and read her the implied consent advisory. McDonnell refused to submit to testing and her driver's license was revoked. She petitioned for judicial review.

After a hearing, the trial court found McDonnell understood the advisory and made a knowing refusal. The court held, however, that the officer should have determined whether McDonnell had a prior revocation that would subject her to the criminal refusal law. If she did not, ruled the trial court, there was no need to advise her that refusal may subject her to criminal penalties. If she did, the officer should have advised her of the potential penalty and the right to counsel. The trial court held that failure to do so violated McDonnell's fifth amendment rights and found that the new law added more confusion to the advisory. It rescinded the revocation. The Commissioner of Public Safety appeals.

Moser v. Commissioner of Public Safety

An officer stopped Cindy Jean Moser in her vehicle when he saw it swerving within the traffic lane. After observing indicia of intoxication, he arrested her for DWI. The implied consent advisory was read to Moser. She testified she was confused by the language of the advisory and asked the officer to re-read certain paragraphs to her. Moser and the officer spent approximately 11 minutes discussing the advisory, after which she agreed to take a test. She testified that had she not thought she was subject to criminal prosecution, she would have refused to take the test. The test showed an alcohol concentration of .13, and Moser's license was revoked pursuant to the implied consent law. She petitioned for judicial review.

The trial court found that Moser, who had no prior revocations, was confused by the language of the advisory. It held that the implied consent advisory was a misstatement of law as applied to Moser, which prevented her from voluntarily consenting to the test and rendered the advisory ineffective. The trial court rescinded the revocation. The Commissioner of Public Safety appeals.

Weeding v. Commissioner of Public Safety

An officer stopped Troy Eugene Weeding after noticing erratic driving. He then observed Weeding exhibit indicia of intoxication, and arrested him for DWI. The officer read the implied consent advisory to Weeding and asked him if he understood. Weeding replied "sure," but refused to take a test. Weeding had a prior license revocation.

Weeding's driver's license was revoked for refusing testing, and he petitioned for judicial review. The trial court, in an extensive memorandum, ruled that Weeding's fifth amendment rights, sixth amendment rights, and fourteenth amendment due process and equal protection rights were not violated. However, it rescinded the revocation on the grounds that the advisory was a misstatement of law and misleading because it did not fully inform Weeding of his rights and the consequences of refusing testing. The Commissioner of Public Safety appeals.

ISSUES

1. What is the effect of Minn.Stat. § 169.121, subd. 1a (Supp.1989) on the supreme court's interpretation of a driver's fifth and sixth amendment rights in Nyflot v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 369 N.W.2d 512 (Minn.), appeal dismissed, 474 U.S. 1027, 106 S.Ct. 586, 88 L.Ed.2d 567 (1985)?

2. Is the language of the implied consent advisory or the criminal refusal statute void for vagueness or so misleading as to compel rescission of a driver's license revocation?

3. Does either the advisory or the criminal statute violate equal protection?

ANALYSIS
INTRODUCTION

The United States Supreme Court very recently spoke on the issue of drunk driving: "No one can seriously dispute the magnitude of the drunk driving problem or the States' interest in eradicating it." Michigan Dep't. of State Police v. Sitz, --- U.S. ----, ----, 110 S.Ct. 2481, 2485, 110 L.Ed.2d 412 (1990). The Minnesota Supreme Court and this court also have recognized that "drunken drivers pose a severe threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Minnesota." Heddan v. Dirkswager, 336 N.W.2d 54, 63 (Minn.1983); State v. Muzik, 379 N.W.2d 599, 602 (Minn.App.1985). In response to this serious problem the legislature has enacted strict laws. Szczech v. Comm'r of Public Safety, 343 N.W.2d 305, 306 (Minn.App.1984). The courts have repeatedly recognized these are remedial statutes that must be liberally interpreted in favor of the public interest and against the private interest of the drivers involved. State, Dep't of Public Safety v. Juncewski, 308 N.W.2d 316, 319 (Minn.1981). It is in light of these problems and principles that we analyze the issues presented today.

Many challenges to the criminal refusal statute and the corresponding amendment to the implied consent advisory have come to this court. See Minn.Stat. § 169.121, subd. 1a, § 169.123, subd. 2(b). In order to address the statutes in an expedient manner, five cases were selected that raised various challenges to the statutes. Though not consolidated, these cases were orally argued together, and we decide them today.

I.
A. Sixth Amendment

The sixth amendment right to counsel attaches only to a critical stage of a criminal prosecution, beginning at the...

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5 cases
  • McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • June 7, 1991
    ...appeals. Sitting en banc, the court of appeals reversed each of the appealed district court orders. See McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 460 N.W.2d 363, 365 (Minn.App.1990). 12 The majority held that neither the state nor the federal constitution requires that an individual be pe......
  • Brooks v. Commissioner of Public Safety
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • September 22, 1998
    ...rights. "Fundamental fairness is the quintessence of the due process clause." McDonnell v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 460 N.W.2d 363, 380 (Minn.App.1990) (Wozniak, C.J., concurring in part, dissenting in part), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 473 N.W.2d 848 * * * Probably the most that can ......
  • Town of Mount Pleasant v. Shaw
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • November 16, 1992
    ...to persuade a driver to refuse testing, but to let a driver know the serious consequences of refusal." McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 460 N.W.2d 363, 371 (Minn.App.1990); See also State v. Deets, 234 Neb. 307, 450 N.W.2d 696 We agree with those jurisdictions which hold that an ......
  • Pahlen v. Commissioner of Public Safety
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • March 17, 1992
    ...that the advisory language was unconstitutionally vague to those who had prior license revocations. See McDonnell v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 460 N.W.2d 363, 371-72 (Minn.App.1990), rev'd in part on other grounds, 473 N.W.2d 848 (Minn.1991). Finally, we address appellant's motions to th......
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