State v. Lemmer, A05-2481.

Decision Date09 August 2007
Docket NumberNo. A05-2481.,A05-2481.
Citation736 N.W.2d 650
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Ronald Joseph LEMMER, Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

MEYER, Justice.

Following his arrest for boating while impaired, appellant Ronald Joseph Lemmer challenged the administrative revocation of his driver's license as permitted under Minnesota's implied consent law. After an implied consent hearing, the district court concluded that the deputy sheriff did not have a particularized and objective basis for stopping Lemmer and rescinded the revocation of Lemmer's license. At the subsequent driving while intoxicated (DWI) criminal prosecution, Lemmer asserted that the state was collaterally estopped from relitigating the validity of the stop and argued that Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g) (2006), which limits the applicability of collateral estoppel between implied consent proceedings and criminal DWI prosecutions, is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers doctrine. The district court concluded that section 169A.53, subd. 3(g), is unconstitutional and dismissed the criminal charges against Lemmer. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that section 169A.53, subd. 3(g), does not violate the separation of powers doctrine and reversed and remanded for trial. We affirm the court of appeals, but on different grounds.

On June 4, 2005, a Scott County Deputy Sheriff was investigating a DWI suspect who had left the scene of a traffic accident and fled to Lemmer's house. The suspect requested use of Lemmer's boat, and when Lemmer declined to allow the boat's use, the suspect obtained control of Lemmer's boat. Lemmer boarded the boat to protect his property, and with Lemmer on board, the suspect used Lemmer's boat to evade the authorities. Eventually, the suspect docked and left the boat, at which time he was quickly apprehended by the authorities. Meanwhile, Lemmer, having regained control of the boat, proceeded across the lake to his home. Lemmer was followed by a Scott County Deputy Sheriff, who stopped Lemmer and boarded his boat. After noticing evidence of intoxication, the deputy performed field sobriety tests and arrested Lemmer for boating while under the influence of alcohol.1

After his arrest, Lemmer was transported to the Scott County Jail where he consented to taking an Intoxilyzer 500 test, which indicated that Lemmer had an alcohol concentration of .12. Based on the test results, Lemmer's driver's license was revoked under the implied consent law. This was a civil revocation. Because Lemmer's alcohol concentration was over .10 and Lemmer had a previous impaired driving incident in 2000, Lemmer was charged with DWI in the third degree—alcohol concentration over .10; and DWI in the third degree—prior impaired driving incident within ten years, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5) (2006), and Minn.Stat. § 169A.26 (2006).

Lemmer had an implied consent hearing on August 1, 2005, to challenge the license revocation. At the implied consent hearing, the Commissioner of Public Safety was represented by an assistant attorney general. Although Lemmer's attorney sent the Scott County Attorney's Office, which serves as the prosecuting attorney for DWI cases, a letter informing them of the hearing, the county did not attend. Based on findings made during the implied consent hearing, the district court concluded that there was no particularized and objective basis for pursuing Lemmer and rescinded the revocation of Lemmer's driving privileges.

An omnibus hearing regarding the criminal charges was held after the implied consent hearing. Lemmer brought a motion to dismiss the criminal charges, claiming that the state was estopped from relitigating issues decided in the implied consent hearing and arguing that Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), which legislatively eliminated the applicability of collateral estoppel to DWI prosecutions, is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine. At the omnibus hearing, the district court considered both Lemmer's argument and an order in State v. Brunclik, No. T8-04-4705 (Minn.Dist.Ct. Nov. 8, 2005), that found Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), unconstitutional and enjoined "the State of Minnesota, and its various political subdivisions" from enforcing the statute.2 The district court took Brunclik into consideration and issued an order adopting the reasoning of Brunclik and dismissing the charges against Lemmer.

The state appealed, arguing that the district court erred when it concluded that Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), is unconstitutional. Lemmer filed a motion to strike the state's arguments regarding the constitutionality of the statute, arguing that any attacks on the constitutionality of Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), constituted an impermissible collateral attack on the injunction issued in Brunclik. The court of appeals concluded that the state was challenging whether the district court's order was properly supported by the Brunclik decision, that the injunction was included by reference, and that the issue was properly before the court. State v. Lemmer, 716 N.W.2d 657, 661 (Minn. App.2006). The court of appeals, concluding that Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), is constitutional, denied Lemmer's motion to strike, reversed the decision of the district court, and remanded the case for trial.


In Minnesota, an arrest for DWI potentially results in two types of penalties in two separate proceedings, a civil proceeding (implied consent proceeding) under the implied consent law, Minn.Stat. §§ 169A.50-169A.53 (2006), which involves the revocation of the defendant's driver's license, and a criminal proceeding for DWI (DWI prosecution) under Minn.Stat. §§ 169A.20-169A.37 (2006), which involves criminal punishment.

Under the implied consent law, any individual "who drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state or on any boundary water of this state consents * * * to a chemical test of that person's blood, breath or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol." Minn.Stat. § 169A.51, subd. 1(a) (2006). If the individual refuses to take the chemical test or fails the test, the Commissioner of Public Safety may revoke the individual's license or permit to drive. Minn.Stat. § 169A.52, subds. 3-4 (2006).3 This revocation occurs prior to the implied consent hearing. Once an individual's license has been revoked, he or she may request judicial review of that revocation.4 Minn.Stat. § 169A.53 (2006).5 The implied consent hearing occurs before a district court judge, and the parties before the court are the Commissioner of Public Safety, represented by the attorney general or the prosecuting attorney for the jurisdiction involved, and the defendant. See Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(a). The proceeding is governed by the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 2(d), and the scope of the hearing is limited to ten issues enumerated in section 169A.53, subd. 3(b).

In the criminal proceeding, the parties before the court are the state, represented by the attorney in the jurisdiction in which the impaired driving offense occurred, and the defendant. See Minn.Stat. § 169A.43, subd. 2 (2006). In this case, the prosecuting attorney was the Scott County Attorney, whose authority to prosecute impaired driving offenses arises from Minn.Stat. § 388.051 (2006). Because the offense is a criminal matter, the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure apply, the defendant is afforded the protections due to him by both the federal and state constitutions, and the state is held to a higher burden of proof.

Issues addressed in implied consent proceedings are sometimes identical to issues addressed in DWI prosecutions. Compare Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1 (2006) (outlining the DWI elements that include operating or being in physical control of any motor vehicle, being under the influence of alcohol, and having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more), with Minn.Stat. § 169A.52, subd. 4 (providing for license revocation where an individual is operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle, and test results show an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more). In 2001, the court of appeals held that collateral estoppel could be asserted in a criminal prosecution if the identical issue had been litigated in an implied consent hearing. State v. Victorsen, 627 N.W.2d 655 (Minn.App.2001). The Victorsen court determined that privity existed between the Commissioner of Public Safety in the implied consent proceeding and the state in the DWI prosecution because the statutory changes that had increased the potential criminal penalties on the basis of civil license revocation had made the relationship between the state and the commissioner "symbiotic" and the differing interests of the parties had become a "fictional construct." Id. at 661-63. After concluding that the parties were in privity, the court then held that if the prosecuting attorney for the criminal matter was given notice of an implied consent hearing and the attorney failed to attend, the state would be estopped from relitigating any issue decided against it at the implied consent hearing. Id. at 664. During the next legislative session, the legislature enacted Minn.Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(g), abrogating Victorsen. Act of Apr. 4, 2002, ch. 314, § 1, 2002 Minn. Laws 509, 510-11. Under section 169A.53, subd. 3(g), the implied consent hearing does "not give rise to an estoppel on any issues arising from the same set of circumstances in any criminal prosecution." The...

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