State v. Andrews

Decision Date14 September 1973
Docket NumberNo. 43787,43787
Citation212 N.W.2d 863,297 Minn. 260
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Robert A. ANDREWS, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

Admission of evidence of defendant's refusal to submit to chemical testing in a prosecution on a charge of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, Minn. St. 169.121, violates a defendant's right not to be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. U.S.Const. Amend. V; Minn. Const. art. 1, § 7.

John S. Connolly, St. Paul, for appellant.

Warren Spannaus, Atty. Gen., William B. Randall, County Atty., Kenneth J. Fitzpatrick, City Atty., A. Keith Hanzel and Daniel L. Ficker, Asst. City Attys., St. Paul, for respondent.

Considered en banc without oral argument.

KELLY, Justice.

Defendant, convicted by a St. Paul municipal court jury of driving while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, Minn. St. 169.121, appeals from judgment of conviction and from the order denying his motion for a new trial. We reverse and grant defendant a new trial on the ground that the trial court committed prejudicial error in admitting evidence that defendant had refused to submit to chemical testing.

In State v. McCarthy, 259 Minn. 24, 104 N.W.2d 673, 87 A.L.R.2d 360 (1960), which was also a prosecution under § 169.121, we held that the admission of evidence that permitted the jury to infer that defendant had refused to submit to chemical testing constituted prejudicial error. We based that decision in part upon the privilege against compelled self-incrimination and in part upon § 169.121, which makes chemical testing voluntary on the defendant's part.

Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 16 L.Ed.2d 908 (1966), relied upon by the state, has not caused us to change our opinion that admission of such evidence violates a defendant's right not to be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. U.S.Const. Amend. V; Minn.Const. art. 1, § 7. Schmerber held that the admission of the results of tests conducted on blood samples taken from an accused without his permission did not violate the accused's right not to be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. But it does not follow, as the state contends, that since an arrested motorist has no constitutional (as opposed to statutory) right to refuse to submit to chemical testing, he has no constitutional right to have evidence of that refusal excluded from evidence. Indeed, in Schmerber the court emphasized in a footnote that it was not deciding whether admission of evidence of an accused's refusal to submit to chemical testing would violate any of the accused's constitutional rights. 384 U.S. 765, note 9, 86 S.Ct. 1833, 16 L.Ed.2d 916. The argument for holding that admission of evidence of refusal in this context does violate a defendant's constitutional rights is well stated in Note, 78 Yale L.J. 1074, 1084:

'* * * Evidence of a suspect's refusal * * * is relevant to the crime charged only in its testimonial aspect, as the approximate equivalent of the statement, 'Because I fear that the examination will produce evidence of my guilt, I refuse to permit it.' Therefore, the privilege against self-incrimination seems relevant. There remains the question of whether such testimonial evidence is 'compelled' for purposes of applying the fifth amendment standard. In one sense the testimonial action is obviously not compelled--the state is not ordering the suspect to Refuse cooperation. But the state does compel a suspect to choose between submitting to a perhaps unpleasant examination and producing testimonial evidence against himself. The suspect's option to submit to a lawfully imposed burden instead of implicitly testifying against himself does not necessarily save the procedure: lifting a lawful burden--the examination--is in effect an inducement that casts doubt on the 'voluntariness' of the testimonial evidence thereby obtained.'

In short, we are not convinced that we erred when we held in McCarthy that admission of such evidence in a prosecution under § 169.121 violated an accused's right not to be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself. 1 This court has not specifically adopted any rule regarding the admissibility of this evidence under its inherent rule-making power and, as we have done in many instances, might be inclined to follow the expressed intent of the legislature as a matter of comity. Thus, a discussion of the intent of the legislature would seem to be in order.

We are not convinced, as the state is, that since our decision in McCarthy the legislature has clearly expressed its intent that such evidence be admissible. At the time of our decision, § 169.121 contained no provision specifying whether such evidence was admissible. Then in 1961, following the McCarthy decision, the legislature amended § 169.121, subd. 2, adding the following provision--'but the refusal to permit the taking of specimens for such chemical analysis shall not be admissible in evidence.' L. 1961, c. 454, § 9. By L. 1971, c. 893, § 2, the legislature deleted this provision from § 169.121, subd. 2. The legislature's intent in deleting this provision is difficult to ascertain. On the one hand, arguably the legislature intended to remove any statutory barrier to the admission of such evidence. On the other hand, the statute as it now reads is no different with respect to admission of such evidence than it was when interpreted in McCarthy, and a defendant still has the right to refuse to take any tests.

In short, we are unconvinced by the state's arguments that the statute permits admission of such evidence in prosecutions for driving under the influence and that the admission of such evidence does not violate a defendant's constitutional rights.

The only question that remains with respect to this issue is whether the error was prejudicial. In McCarthy, we held that there was little doubt that admission of the evidence of refusal in all probability strongly influenced the jury in reaching its decision notwithstanding the court's instructions to disregard that evidence. The evidence against defendant in this case was no stronger than the evidence against McCarthy; accordingly, we hold that the error was prejudicial.

Additionally, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial made after one of the arresting officers testified, in response to a prosecution question, that defendant, while in custody and after receiving a Miranda warning, had stated that 'he had been read his rights many times before.' This evidence arguably apprised the jury of defendant's prior arrest record and therefore, at least under the circumstances of this case, should not have been admitted. However, in view of our decision with respect to the admission of evidence of refusal, we need not decide whether admission of this evidence would alone necessitate a new trial. On retrial, the prosecution should exercise caution so that this error is not repeated.

Reversed and new trial granted.

YETKA and SCOTT, JJ., not having been members of this court at the time of the submission, took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

KNUTSON, Chief Justice (concurring specially).

I concur specially in the majority opinion.

I think it was a mistake to base decision in State v. McCarthy, 259 Minn. 24, 104 N.W.2d 673, in part on constitutional grounds. Similarly, I think it is a mistake to base this decision on constitutional grounds.

When the legislature amended Minn. St. 169.121 in 1961 it made evidence involved in this case inadmissible as a matter of statutory law. If the rule is based on constitutional grounds, the legislature could not change the rule. When the statute was again amended by L. 1971, c. 893, § 2, it was simply returned to the form it had when McCarthy was decided. Absent a constitutional proscription, there is no reason why the legislature, if it saw fit, could not make this evidence admissible. That is the way I would leave it.

The courts are in complete disharmony on this subject. See, Annotation, 87 A.L.R.2d 370.

PETERSON, Justice (dissenting).

The majority holds that in a prosecution for driving a vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, Minn.St. 169.121, it is, on both statutory and constitutional grounds, prejudicial error to permit the prosecution to establish that defendant had refused to submit to a 'chemical test of his blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his blood' as provided by § 169.123, subd. 2. I do not agree. 1

My first point of disagreement is with the interpretation of the present § 169.121 as expressing a legislative intent to make such evidence of refusal inadmissible. Our decision in State v. McCarthy, 259 Minn. 24, 104 N.W.2d 673, 87 A.L.R.2d 360 (1960), upon which the majority opinion relies, so interpreted the statute as it existed at that time. This interpretation was permissible since the statute, unlike similar statutes in several other states, did not make testing mandatory and contained no specific provision authorizing evidence of refusal to submit to testing. Subsequent legislative history, however, presents the issue of statutory interpretation in a wholly different context. In the 1961 legislative session, which followed the McCarthy decision, the legislature amended § 169.121, subd. 2, by adding this language: '(b)ut the refusal to permit the taking of specimens for such chemical analysis shall not be admissible in evidence. * * *' L. 1961, c. 454, § 9. Thereafter, Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 16 L.Ed.2d 908 (1966), cleared constitutional doubt as to the validity of mandatory chemical testing, and in the 1971 legislative session the legislature deleted the 1961 language that proscribed admission of evidence...

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