State v. Netland, No. A06-1511.

Decision Date12 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. A06-1511.
Citation762 N.W.2d 202
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Appellant, v. Jakklyn M. NETLAND, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, MN; and Michael J. Colich, Tania K.M. Lex, Colich & Associates, Minneapolis, MN, for appellant.

Charles A. Ramsay, Daniel J. Koewler, Charles A. Ramsay & Assoc., PLLC, Roseville, MN, for respondent.


GILDEA, Justice.

Respondent Jakklyn Netland challenged her conviction for second-degree criminal test refusal, arguing that her right to due process was violated by the manner in which the breathalyzer test was administered and that the criminal test-refusal statute violated her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Netland raised the due process issue to the district court, and that court rejected her argument. On appeal, Netland additionally raised the issue that the criminal test-refusal statute violated her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The court of appeals held that the criminal test-refusal statute does not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches because the exigency exception to the warrant requirement permits a warrantless search for blood-alcohol content. State v. Netland, 742 N.W.2d 207, 214-15 (Minn.App.2007). The court of appeals, however, reversed Netland's conviction, concluding that her right to due process was violated. Id. at 221. Because we hold that Netland's right to due process was not violated and that the criminal test-refusal statute did not result in an unconstitutional search, we reverse.

The record reveals that a police officer stopped Netland's car at approximately 1:45 a.m. on January 7, 2006, because he observed her driving erratically. Based on his observations, the officer thought Netland was under the influence of alcohol. After smelling alcohol on Netland's breath, observing her bloodshot eyes, and hearing her slurred speech, the officer asked Netland to step out of the car. Netland steadied herself on the vehicle as she left the vehicle. The officer administered, and Netland failed, three field sobriety tests. The officer also offered a preliminary breath test that Netland declined.

The officer arrested Netland and took her to the nearby stationhouse, where he read her the implied-consent advisory required by Minn.Stat. § 169A.51, subd. 2 (2008).1 Netland agreed that she understood all provisions of the advisory. After consulting with counsel, Netland told the officer that she would take a test because the attorney informed her that the consequences of refusal would be worse than the consequences of finding alcohol in her blood. Netland requested a blood test. The officer, however, informed Netland that he would administer a breath test. The officer testified that he usually requires a breath test for persons he suspects of driving under the influence because the breath test is easy to administer and returns immediate results.

The officer turned on the Intoxilyzer breath-testing machine and explained how the machine worked so Netland could take the test. Within moments of Netland's first attempted breath sample, the officer informed her that the reading on the machine indicated that she was not blowing and that if the machine timed out before she provided adequate breath samples, the result would be considered a refusal to take the test. Netland responded that she was trying to blow into the machine.2 The Intoxilyzer registered that Netland made 19 attempts to give a sample, but none of those attempts registered as an adequate sample.

After the Intoxilyzer reported a deficient test, Netland asked to take the test again. The officer denied the request because he observed Netland "starting and stopping" while she made her attempts during the first test. Netland then asked to take an independent chemical test. The officer complied with this request and the record shows that Netland utilized a private agency to conduct a urine test. Lab analysis from the independent test indicated that Netland had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.036 at the time that test was taken.

The State subsequently charged Netland with one count of second-degree test refusal, a gross misdemeanor, in violation of Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2 (2008), which makes it "a crime for any person to refuse to submit to a chemical test." The State also charged Netland with one count of third-degree driving while impaired, a gross misdemeanor, in violation of Minn. Stat. 169A.20, subd. 1(1) (2008), which makes it "a crime for any person to drive . . . when the person is under the influence of alcohol."3 A jury found Netland guilty of second-degree criminal test refusal, but not guilty of driving while impaired. Netland made a motion for a new trial, arguing that her right to due process was violated. The district court denied this motion.

On appeal, the court of appeals held that the test-refusal statute, Minn.Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2, did not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. Netland, 742 N.W.2d at 215. But the court determined that Netland was willing to submit to a chemical test for the presence of alcohol and that the officer had therefore denied Netland a "meaningful opportunity to obey the law," in violation of her due process rights. Netland, 742 N.W.2d at 216, 221. We granted the State's petition for review on the due process issue. In its petition for review, the State framed the issue as follows: "Are a defendant's due process rights violated when the officer administering the test deems the defendant to have refused the test after the defendant fails to provide an adequate breath sample and when the officer thereafter does not offer an alternative test to the defendant?"4 We also granted Netland's cross-petition to review the constitutionality of the test-refusal statute under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution.


We turn first to the question of whether Netland's right to due process was violated. Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions afford criminal defendants due process of law. U.S. Const., Amend. XIV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 7. We review the constitutional issue of whether a defendant's right to due process was violated de novo. State v. Dorsey, 701 N.W.2d 238, 249 (Minn.2005).

Netland argues, and the court of appeals agreed, that her right to due process was violated in this case because she was not given a meaningful opportunity to obey the law. The court of appeals held that "[f]undamental fairness prohibits imposing criminal sanctions on a person who has been deprived of a meaningful opportunity to obey the law." Netland, 742 N.W.2d at 216.5 But in adopting this standard, the court of appeals relied on cases that address the concept of due process within the context of a challenge that a criminal statute violates due process because the statute is unconstitutionally vague. See Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108, 92 S.Ct. 2294, 33 L.Ed.2d 222 (1972) (noting that "[i]t is a basic principle of due process that an enactment is void for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined"), State v. Christensen, 439 N.W.2d 389, 390 (Minn. App.1989) (addressing whether "Minn.Stat. §§ 152.093 and 152.01, subd. 18 [were] unconstitutionally vague on their face and as applied"). Netland makes no argument that the test-refusal statute is unconstitutionally vague, and as a result, the standard that the court of appeals created based on these cases is inapplicable here. Netland has not cited any case from any court that recognizes a "meaningful opportunity to obey the law" as a due process standard. We decline to recognize such a standard in this case.6

Netland argues, however, that her right to due process was violated because the circumstances of her breath test were unfair. Our precedent recognizes that the constitutional guarantees of due process in the United States and Minnesota Constitutions include substantive components prohibiting "`certain arbitrary, wrongful government actions, "regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them."'" In re Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867, 872 (Minn.1999) (quoting Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125, 110 S.Ct. 975, 108 L.Ed.2d 100 (1990)). These components include the right of "every criminal defendant . . . to be treated with fundamental fairness and `afforded a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense.'" State v. Quick, 659 N.W.2d 701, 712 (Minn.2003) (quoting State v. Richards, 495 N.W.2d 187, 191 (Minn.1992)). But, as the Supreme Court has noted, courts are "reluctant to expand the concept of substantive due process because guideposts for responsible decisionmaking in this unchartered area are scarce and open-ended." Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 125, 112 S.Ct. 1061, 117 L.Ed.2d 261 (1992); see also Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 352-53, 110 S.Ct. 668, 107 L.Ed.2d 708 (1990) (noting that "[b]eyond the specific guarantees enumerated in the Bill of Rights, the Due Process Clause has limited operation" and that the "category of infractions that violate `fundamental fairness' [has been defined] very narrowly" to include only those that violate "the community's sense of fair play and decency"); United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 790, 97 S.Ct. 2044, 52 L.Ed.2d 752 (1977) ("Judges are not free, in defining `due process,' to impose on law enforcement officials [their] `personal and private notions' of fairness and to `disregard the limits that bind judges in their judicial function.'").

As these cases recognize, the initial inquiry in any due process challenge is to identify the precise nature of the constitutional right asserted by the aggrieved party and the government conduct allegedly depriving the party of that right. See Frank v. Maryland, 359 U.S. 360, 363, 79 S.Ct. 804, 3 L.Ed.2d 877 (1959) ...

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