Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

Minnesota Rules Past DUI Blood Tests Valid

Back in April 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that the practice of requiring those suspected of driving drunk to submit to a blood test without a warrant was unconstitutional. There has been a lot of debate over the ruling and Implied Consent here in Minnesota, but the Supreme Court’s decision left one big question: What about those people who submitted to a test without a warrant prior to the ruling?

That was issue facing Shawn O’Connell, who submitted to a blood test after his arrest in Bloomington once he was informed of Minnesota’s Implied Consent law, which penalizes drivers who refuse to submit to a test, even in the absence of a warrant. After the McNeely decision was handed down, O’Connell rightfully challenged that he be allowed to withdraw his plea based on the fact that the state’s case hung on the fact that he submitted to a test without a warrant.

Unfortunately for O’Connell, Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman did not want to be a champion of individual rights. In her ruling last week, Bjorkman stated:

“Prior to McNeely, many jurisdictions, including Minnesota, recognized that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood constituted a per se exigency justifying a warrantless search. McNeely changed the law in these jurisdictions. Law enforcement can no longer rely on natural dissipation alone to create an exigent circumstance.  Rather, law enforcement is now obligated to obtain a warrant or establish a valid exception to the warrant requirement based on the totality of the circumstances. And the split in authority prior to McNeely demonstrates its holding was not dictated by existing precedent. We conclude that McNeely announced a new rule that would generally not apply to final convictions on collateral review.”

In a statement that clearly throws due process out the window, Bjorkman concluded:

“The requirement that law enforcement secure a warrant, or establish an exception to the warrant requirement, before administering a breath, blood, or urine test has little bearing on the accuracy of the underlying determination of guilt. Rather, it merely addresses the procedural requirements law enforcement must follow when gathering evidence against a suspect.”

In essence, so long as the ends justify the means, then violating a person’s 4th Amendment rights is fine. This is a dangerous precedent, and we as citizens should be concerned.

Related source: MPR News

MLK’s View on Law From a Birmingham Jail Cell 

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day when we honor Dr. King for his role in bringing the Civil Rights Movement to the national stage. We’ve written about Dr. King’s fascinating legal escapades last year in a post, but today we present his poignant view on law and the citizen’s role in questioning it.

Here is an excerpt from his piece, Letter From a Birmingham Jail. The full text can be read here.

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern.

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.

Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. 

Poor Drunk Driving Excuse and Vanilla Extract DUI

We mentioned last week that although DUIs were down over the course of the year in Minnesota, there was a spike during the holidays. That holiday increase likely came as little surprise to Daniel Pratts, who was arrested in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve.

An officer pulled Pratts over after witnessing the driver blow through a stop sign. The officer suspected that Pratts had been drinking, but the driver refused to take a breath test. Despite his refusal to comply, the officer had enough evidence to place Pratts under arrest and take him to the station.

According to the police report, while at the station Pratts told the officer that he shouldn’t be charged with a DUI because “it’s New Year’s Eve, everyone drives drunk.” Unfortunately for Pratts, the officer wasn’t buying his logic. Pratts was eventually charged with driving under the influence, refusal to take a breath test and reckless driving.

Excess Extract

A New York woman has been charged with a sweet smelling DUI after consuming alcohol-rich vanilla extract and getting behind the wheel.

Carolyn Kesel, 46, was stopped by officers after they noticed that she was driving erratically in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Authorities suspected Kesel was under the influence after a short discussion, and they asked her to submit to a Breathalyzer. The breath test revealed she was operating the vehicle with BAC more than three times the legal limit.

A subsequent search of the vehicle uncovered a bottle of vanilla extract. According to FDA standards, pure vanilla extract contains a defined level of natural vanilla and a minimum of 35 percent alcohol. Authorities said the bottle found in Kesel’s car was 41 percent alcohol.

Kesel was eventually charged with driving under the influence.

Related source: WATE, Huffington Post

DUIs Spike During Holidays But Down Overall in 2014

Although Minnesota saw a small increase in DUIs during the holiday season compared to 2013, the state saw an overall reduction in the annual number of drunk driver arrests.

A Freeborn County woman with a 0.45 blood-alcohol concentration was one of 2,537 Minnesotans arrested during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign that stretched from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. That’s up ever so slightly from 2013 when 2,453 drivers were arrested during the same holiday period.

Despite the holiday uptick, DUI arrest numbers are trending in the right direction. 24,159 people were arrested for DUI in Minnesota in 2014, more than a 6 percent decrease from 2013 when 25,719 Minnesotans were booked for drunk driving. This year marked the eighth straight year the drunk driving arrests fell, but Donna Berger, director of the Minnesota DPS’ Office of Traffic Safety, said DUIs are still a problem in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“Drunk driving is a choice, a choice that can have life-altering consequences for you or other on the roads,” said Berger. “Even though we are encouraged by declining DWI numbers, one drunk driver is one too many.”

Speaking of one too many, although the Freeborn County woman took the unofficial record for highest BAC, the police statistics show that 16 drivers were booked with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 or greater, essentially four times the legal limit. The State Patrol said these individuals are lucky they didn’t hurt themselves or others during their drunken drive.

“This woman is very fortunate that she didn’t injure or kill herself or another motorist,” said State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

More DUI Statistics

Some other statistics from the six-week DUI enforcement include:

  • 303 drivers were arrested for DUI on the Saturday before Christmas, the highest one-day total during the six-week stretch.
  • The State Patrol’s east metro district had the most DUI arrests during the campaign, with 168.
  • Outside the metro, the top DUI arresting agencies were in Rochester, St. Cloud and Stearns County.
  • In addition to drunk driving arrests, police also issued 2,093 seat belt violations during the six-week campaign.

Minnesota DUI Record Holder Released From Prison

A Minnesota man who holds the state record for most drunk driving arrests was released from prison on December 29.

Danny Lee Bettcher, 61, was released from custody after serving five years in prison for his most recent drunk driving offense. According to a police spokeswoman, that arrest occurred in Otter Tail County after Bettcher blew a stop sign on his motorcycle. A subsequent breath test revealed he was operating the bike with a BAC more than twice the legal driving limit.

Bettcher’s criminal record is longer than most people’s resume. He has been convicted for a state record 27 drunk driving arrests.  Lynn Goughler, a local board member of the Twin Cities chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that number is reprehensible.

“I find it completely outrageous; I think he’s a danger to the public,” said Goughler.

Goughler said she’d like to see DUI laws strengthened for repeat offenders.

“Everybody wants to make a new law, but we have a lot of laws,” she said. “I think we have to look at the ones we have, strengthen the DWI laws and then be sure the courts are imposing them.”

Supervised Release

Bettcher was released to residential placement in Clay County, where he’ll face the highest level of supervision. He’ll need to regularly report to a probation officer, and he’ll also be forced to where a GPS and a transdermal device. A transdermal device is placed on the skin and can detect if the body is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Some other conditions Bettcher may face include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol.
  • Prohibited from frequenting places that serve alcohol.
  • Prohibited from possessing a firearm.
  • Randomized, unannounced searches of his home.
  • Prohibited from driving.

It’s uncertain exactly what conditions Bettcher will face, as that information has not been made public, but none of the above conditions seem out of the question. If Bettcher is allowed to drive, it’s likely only for conditional purposes, like to and from work, school or church.

The sad truth is that Bettcher isn’t the only Minnesotan with double digit DUIs. Court records show that 1,265 Minnesotans have at least 10 DUI convictions on their record. Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said these offenders are tough to police as they’ll find their way behind the wheel one way or another.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Roeske. “They’ll find a way around it, so it’s really up to us to get them while they’re on the road.”

Related Source: CBS Minnesota, Pioneer Press

Another Minnesota Vikings Player Earns DWI

While eight NFL teams are still battling to be crowned Super Bowl champion, the Minnesota Vikings are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Over the holidays rookie cornerback Jabari Price was arrested for driving under the influence.

Perhaps out celebrating the conclusion of his rookie season, Price was stopped by an officer at 3:18am on December 29, the day after the final regular season game. Although details of the traffic stop are lacking, the officer wrote that he “detected impairment in the driver.” Price was asked to preform a Breathalyzer test, and he registered a 0.13 BAC, more than 1.5 times the legal limit.

Price was charged with fourth degree DWI, which is a misdemeanor offense. He was released without bail later that same day. He will make his initial appearance at the  Hennepin County Courthouse on February 9.

Vikings Issue Statement

The Vikings issued a statement after learning of Price’s arrest.

“We are aware of the incident involving Jabari Price and are looking into the matter,” Vikings spokesperson Jeff Anderson said in a statement. “We will withhold any further comment at this time.”

The Vikings will let due process run its course, but Price could soon find himself looking for a new team. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson was released earlier this season after being arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana, and the Vikings need to build their public image. They have been the most arrested team in the past few years, and Price was the fifth Vikings player to be arrested in 2014. We wrote about most of the other arrests on our blog, but check them out for more details.

Minnesota Task Force Wants Harsher DUI Penalties

A local task force is asking lawmakers to strengthen Minnesota’s current DUI laws in hopes of curbing drunken driving throughout the state.

With the first legislative session of the new year less than a week away, the task force is pushing for numerous changes to current DUI statutes. Some of the proposed ideas include:

  • Seizing license plates of all DUI offenders, including first-time offenders.
  • Lowering the BAC level required to impose stronger criminal penalties. Currently, the threshold is typically 0.16 percent, or twice the legal driving limit.
  • Creating stronger incentives for offenders to install ignition interlock devices, which reduce a drunk drivers likelihood of reoffending.

A state DWI task force is proposing tougher penalties for Minnesota’s drunken drivers with hopes that they will encourage more offenders to install ignition interlock devices before getting back behind the wheel. Studies have shown recidivism rates are lower for offenders who have the ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles compared to simply having their license suspended.

“[They’re] just good science,” said Robert Speeter, a member of the task force.  “You do what’s effective, and it’s more effective to let people live their lives safely, keep their jobs, drive to work, go to AA meetings, take the kids to soccer and do all the things that are positive.”

Despite their effectiveness, ignition interlock devices have yet to be widely embraced throughout the state. Since 2011, about 14,000 Minnesotans have had the device installed after a DUI conviction. During that same period, 60,000 Minnesotans have opted to only have their licenses suspended.

Interlock Issues

One of the main reasons offenders don’t opt for the ignition interlock devices is because they can get expensive. The devices cost about $100 to install, and monthly fees typically range between $100-$200. If an offender needs to have a device for six months, that can get expensive quick. Task Force Chair Dave Bernstein said he knows mandatory devices for all offenders is impractical, as some don’t have cars, while others can’t afford the device.

“We want to be realistic and hope this bill passes to encourage ignition interlock for more drivers as one successful way of reducing drunk driving,” Bernstein said.

The bill Bernstein references calls for plate impoundment for all drunk driving offenders, not just those above 0.16, and the return of the plates would be conditional on the offender installing an ignition interlock device.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota Aiming For Zero New Year’s DUI Deaths

A streak of four years without a death on Minnesota roads over the New Year’s holiday came to a halt last year when one person lost their life in a crash, but state officials are hoping to start a new streak this year.

New Year’s Eve is one of the most deadly days on US roads, as the possibility of poor winter weather mixes with late night partiers who drive home drunk after ringing in the new year. Since New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest days for drunk driving, it should come as no surprise that the Minnesota State Patrol will be conducting extra DUI patrols as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

“DWI patrols will be on the road, so don’t risk drinking and driving,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety said in a statement. “Now is the time to plan for your safe and sober ride.”

Despite the warning, Minnesota police still expect drunk drivers to hit the roads in droves. Over 300 people were booked for DUI in New Year’s Eve in 2013, despite a heads up, and the state has averaged 295 arrests each year on the holiday for the past five years.

Get Home Safe

If you’ve been following our blog long enough, you probably already know our suggestions for getting home safe after ringing in a holiday, so today we’ll do it Wheel of Fortune style. Below are five ways to get home safe after a night on the town. See if you can figure out the clues with the hints.

1. T_K_    _   C_ _ (3 words)

2.  _ _ BLI_     T _ A _ S _ _ _ TATI _ N (2 words)

3. U _ _ _  (1 word)

4. D _ _ _ G _ A _ E _     D _ _ _ E _   (2 words)

5. _ _ LK (1 word)


The answers to the five ways to get home safe on New Year’s Eve are: 1. Take a cab. 2. Public Transportation. 3. Uber. 4. Designated Driver. 5. Walk.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

West Virginia Man Blames DUI on Christmas Shopping

The night before Christmas Eve is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, but one thing that wasn’t bought that day was Mark Jenkins’ alibi.

According to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, officers responded to a call about a driver passed out behind the wheel at a gas station. When the arrived, they knocked on the vehicle’s windows in an attempt to rouse the driver. Jenkins woke up after several minutes of knocking, and eventually he stepped out of the vehicle to talk with the officers.

The police suspected Jenkins had been drinking, but he told the officers that he only fell asleep behind the wheel because he was exhausted from a long day of Christmas shopping. Not the most outrageous story in the book, but officers smelled alcohol on Jenkins’ breath, so they asked him to submit to a Breathalyzer. Not surprisingly, Jenkins admitted that he had “a couple” of alcoholic beverages earlier in the day, but they must have been 96oz jars of eggnog if Jenkins was telling the truth, because he blew a 0.258, more than three times the legal driving limit.

Jenkins was arrested and charged with one count of misdemeanor DUI.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen criminal acts before the holidays. Last month we shared the story of a woman who stabbed her boyfriend for eating Thanksgiving dinner while she was sleeping off a hangover, and back in October we shared the tale of a zombie who earned two DUIs in three hours while celebrating Halloween!

So please, with New Year’s Eve right around the corner, please make good decisions so we don’t end up reading your story in the Pioneer Press!

Related source: Herald Mail Media

Wisconsin Man Blames DUI on Beer Battered Fish

A Wisconsin man is blaming his latest DUI on a heaping helping of beer battered fish.

John Przybyla, 75, of Friendship earned his 10th DUI on October 12 when officers spotted his truck cross the center line on State Highway 13.

Officers noted that Przybyla smelled of alcohol, so they asked him to step out of the vehicle and preform a field sobriety test. Pryzbyla promptly failed the field sobriety test, but he denied drinking any alcohol that night. Instead, he said his elevated blood alcohol content must have been a result of his recent meal of beer battered fish.

Pryzbyla submitted to a breathalyzer which found that he was operating the vehicle with a BAC of .062. That’s under the standard legal limit, but as you may have guessed, someone who has nine previous DUIs is no longer expected to adhere to regular standards. A condition from a previous conviction said he was not to operate a vehicle with a BAC above .04.

In addition to the charge of driving under the influence, Pryzbyla was hit with a third-offense charge of operating while revoked, and he was cited for having open intoxicants in the vehicle and operating left of the center line.

Fish Fry DUI

For the sake of arguing let’s test Pryzbyla’s theory using some ballpark estimates. For example, let’s say a standard beer batter requires half a can of beer for a batter that covers eight pieces of cod. Let’s also say we’re using a Surly Furious with a 6% ABV.

Now, most of the alcohol would be burned off if the fish were cooked in the oven, but let’s say they are flash fried in oil, and for the sake of arguing, only half of the alcohol burns off, leaving the batter at 3% potency.

The BAC calculator shows that a 200-pound male would need to drink six, three-percent beers in rapid succession to have a .062 blood alcohol content. So lets do the math.

Half a beer = one eight piece cod fry.

One whole beer = Enough batter for 16 pieces.

Six beers worth of fish = 6×16 = 96 pieces of cod in rapid succession, assuming not a drop of the batter goes unconsumed.

Something tells us Pryzbyla came in a few pieces short of 96.

Related source: Channel 3000