Your Fight
Is My Fight

Does DWI law give police too much leeway in Minnesota?

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2021 | DUI/DWI |

How your rights can and probably will be violated without a good DWI attorney

I was pulled over and arrested for DWI as I was driving home one day. While I was never charged, the whole thing happened very quickly, too quickly for my comfort as an attorney. I stayed calm and requested the police report as soon as possible. To my surprise, the officer claimed I had bloodshot, watery eyes and smelled of alcohol.

Neither of these accusations was true, so I did some research. What I discovered was that almost all DWI arrests cite these observations. People don’t typically get bloodshot, watery eyes and an odor of alcohol from a couple of drinks, but these reports cited the same symptoms regardless of blood alcohol content.

In my case, I was lucky enough to have a photo of myself take just before the arrest. I was never charged with the DWI. My interest grew into an obsession and the incident catapulted my career in criminal defense because I could not stop asking myself, “Why are the police lying?”

A Bad Example

If you’re looking for a great bad example of DWI law that invites officers to lie, look no further than Minnesota. I say “old” because the law has hardly changed since the inception of DWI arrests.

In 1983, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the decision that an officer only needs to see one “objective indicator of intoxication” to establish that a person has been drinking (Holtz v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 340 N.W.2d 363, 365, Minn. App. 1983).

“Objective indicators” have included an admission of drinking, even if you only admit to having had a drink earlier in the day, slurred speech, trouble getting license and registration, bloodshot and watery eyes, and the smell of alcohol from the car or driver. An officer can arrest you for DWI if they observe (or claim to observe) just one of those indicators.

A New Trend

After that ruling, officers began frequently citing bloodshot and watery eyes and a smell of alcohol. I struggle to believe these conditions alone constitute reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause for a DWI arrest. However, if they were cited accurately and honestly, it would be borderline reasonable.

The problem is that officers cite these conditions every time because they know they can get away with it because defendants can rarely argue against it. Judge Randall of our Court of Appeals highlights this: “Any peace officer, deputy sheriff, policeman, state highway trooper, etc. is clothed with instant credibility the minute he takes the stand” (LORY v. STATE, No. C9-98-906, Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 10, 1998).

If smelling alcohol is enough, how can you prove the officer did not smell alcohol? The only way is to prove the officer is not credible, a challenging task. I became a DWI attorney because I created an innovative answer.

You Need an Innovative Minnesota DWI attorney

Bodycam footage is an excellent tool for a DWI attorney, but cameras can’t detect odor, and they rarely get a clean enough shot to show whether the eyes are clear. The only way to fight the accusation that your breath smelled of alcohol is to prove the officer is not a credible witness.

I’ve worked tirelessly to design the most effective defense against this rampant issue that exists in almost every DWI arrest. I pull police reports of the arresting officers to show their use of these observations. If it’s excessive, I can argue that they are not credible and move to impeach them, eliminating those observations from your case.

I also look for the moment they expand the stop. If they’re not in a position to smell your breath and they claim odor as the reason for expanding the stop, I can argue that the observation is not credible. For the eyes, I use booking photos to show that they are clear or in a condition other than what the officer described.

If you thought your arrest was unfair, you need a DWI attorney who keeps up with DWI law, identifies trends, and finds a way to fight them. Attorneys who show up and make standard arguments rarely win, if ever. And why should they? They get paid anyway. You need someone who will undertake the necessary research and preparation. I am that person.

Final thoughts

** If you were arrested and charged with a DWI, and you question the expansion of your stop, contact my office today at (612) 895-7435 to schedule a free consultation. **