Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

Can I get into Canada with a DUI?

Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but sometimes avid fishermen want to head north of the border to check out the fishing holes in Canada. Fishing in Canada can be a lot of fun, but crossing the border can be difficult if you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence.

You’ve probably heard the rumor that you can’t get into Canada with a DUI, but that’s not true. That said, if you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you can’t just waltz across the border. According to the Canadian government, there’s two ways you can get into Canada with a DUI:

  • If you’ve been convicted of a DUI within the past five years, you’ll want to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa. This will allow you to enter Canada for no longer than six months.
  • If the DUI occurred more than five years ago, the best way to get into Canada is to apply for a rehabilitation permit. Once you fill out the rehabilitation application, you’ll need to mail it in along with $200 (Canadian). Assuming everything is in order, you’ll be granted admittance into Canada.

Plan Ahead

It might seem like a pain to apply for admittance, but Canadian authorities are well within their rights to deny entrance into the country if you’ve been convicted of a DUI. In fact, denial of admittance isn’t just limited to DUIs. You can be denied entrance in Canada if you have any serious criminal conviction, or if you lie about a past conviction.

Additionally, if you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you’ll need to apply for temporary residency or a rehabilitation permit even if you don’t plan on driving. Border patrol has turned away guests on the Victoria Ferry who have obtained a one-day sightseeing pass because they failed to secure a residency or rehabilitation permit. The same idea applies if you’re a passenger in a car. Even if you don’t plan on driving, that DUI can come back to haunt you if you don’t obtain the right permits.

Police Shootings Could Be Added To MN Emergency Alerts

When a child goes missing in Minnesota, the state’s Amber Alert system broadcasts the alert to Minnesotans across the state. A similar alert could soon be in place when police officers are killed or seriously wounded.

A Minnesota House Panel is pushing for advanced legislation that would add officer-involved shootings to the statewide alert system. The new system, sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, would be called the Blue Alert. Cornish served as a law enforcement officer prior to chairing the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee. He argued that the Blue Alert system would keep civilians safe and would help track down suspects.

“Many times after the assault has taken place, or the death, these people escape in a vehicle,” Cornish said. “So this system would really be helpful in apprehension, a quicker apprehension before these people get out into the general public and do more damage.”

The bill comes on the heels of the of the high-profile killing of officer Scott Patrick by suspect Brian Fitch. Fitch drove away after shooting and killing Patrick during a routine traffic stop. Thankfully, anonymous tipsters alerted police to Fitch’s whereabouts later in the day, and police were able to take him into custody, but not before the two sides again exchanged gunfire.

How Blue Alert Would Work

Under the new proposal, the Blue Alert would be very similar to the current Amber Alert system. The Blue Alert would be transmitted through the Minnesota Crime Alert Network and the Emergency Alert system. Both public and commercial broadcasters would take part in sharing the alert.

Rep. Dan Schoen, an active police officer and supporter of the bill, said the Blue Alert proposal would expedite the spread of information, which is vital in instances where a suspect is a serious threat to public safety.

“We want people looking out their windows,” Schoen said. “We want people looking at each other when they’re going down the interstate, and we need the public to be a part of that.”

The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee unanimously supported the proposal. The bill now moves to the House Transportation Committee.

Related source: MPR News

New Jersey Police Don’t Buy “Black Ice” DUI Excuse

Two New Jersey men thought they could fool police by creating a fake scene to get out of a DUI.

According to the police report, Brian Byers, 20, tried to drive home this weekend after consuming a few too many beers. Police say Byers blew through a stop sign, hit a guard rail and then fled the scene. But, like far too many criminals before him, Byers returned to the scene of the crime to clean up his mess.

This time though he had 20-year-old Alexander Zambenedetti in tow. The pair of 20 year olds each came equipped with a five gallon bucket filled with water. They dumped the water around the crash scene to make it look like black ice, not an inebriated driver, was the reason the car went off the road.

Not surprisingly, the police weren’t buying Byers’ story.

“I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve been here 21 years,” said Sgt. John Lamon of the Sparta Police Department.

Sgt. Dennis Procter added that it was pretty easy to determine that the boys were lying about what transpired.

“You could actually see the skid marks underneath the water they had just put there, so we knew that they had dumped this water over the top of where he lost control of the vehicle rather than the vehicle losing control on the ice itself,” said Proctor.

Proctor noted that Byers eventually confessed to the water-logged plan.

“The original driver of the first vehicle that crashed and left the scene made an admission that … their intent was to blame it on the ice so they could collect insurance for the vehicle, for the damage to the vehicle.”

Byers was charged with Driving While Intoxicated, fleeing the scene of an accident and disorderly conduct for creating a dangerous condition by purposefully icing the roads. Zambenedetti, who dove Byers back to the scene of the crash, also failed a field sobriety test. He too was arrested for DWI.

Related source: CBS2, People, 1010 WINS,

Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds Implied Consent Law

The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the state’s Implied Consent law on Wednesday, effectively saying that as long as the ends justify the means, bypassing forth amendment protections is perfectly acceptable.

Implied Consent, the law at the center of the case, says that drivers must submit to field testing and a breathalyzer if they are suspected of driving under the influence, even if there is no warrant. Proponents of this law continue to champion driving as a privilege, and thus argue that citizens must acquiesce to the whims of law enforcement even without the presence of a warrant. They say things like “Well, if you’ve got nothing to hide, then why should it even matter?” and “Only guilty people would refuse,” but they are missing the larger picture. Our constitution protects us from unreasonable and warrantless searches, so no justification of your refusal should be needed. If the officer really wants to search you, and he has probable cause, then it should be no trouble to get a warrant and conduct a legal search.

The majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, demonstrates a frightful line of thinking, especially for a person in her position of power.

“It is rational to conclude that criminalizing the refusal to submit to a breath test relates to the State’s ability to prosecute drunk drivers and keep Minnesota roads safe,” she wrote. “We therefore hold that the test refusal statute is a reasonable means to a permissive object and that it passes rational basis review.”

In other words, criminalizing a citizen’s right to execute fourth amendment protections granted by our Constitution is fine because it makes the world a safer place.

You know what else would make the world a safer place? Instituting a 7 pm curfew. Most crimes happen at night, right? Or how about we institute the death penalty for anybody caught going over the speed limit? I’m all but certain we’d see a huge drop in traffic violations. That would make the world a safer place, wouldn’t it?

The rational used by Justice Gildea is exactly the line of thinking Ben Franklin cautioned against when he said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Dissenting Opinion

Although the majority opinion won out, Justices Alan Page and David Stras wrote a harsh criticism of the ruling. Justices Page and Stras said biological material inside a person’s body should not be applicable to the warrantless search exemption.

“The Supreme Court has never implied, much less stated, that the search-incident-to-arrest exception extends to the forcible removal of substances from within a person’s body,” they wrote. “In the end, the court ultimately arrives at a decision that is as notable for its disregard of Supreme Court precedent as it is for its defective logic.”

Related source: Grand Forks Herald

Cowboy Jacks In Hot Water For Possible Overserving

Cowboy Jacks in Plymouth could face serious penalties after police say the the bar’s patrons have been involved in numerous alcohol-related instances after they leave the establishment.

Plymouth police have been asking individuals who were involved in an alcohol-related crime or hospitalization where they sipped their last drink in an effort to determine if any particular establishment may be overserving its patrons. Police uncovered that Cowboy Jacks was a name that came up quite frequently. According to the data:

  • In the last year, of the 57 people who told Plymouth police where they had their last drink, 43 said it came at Cowboy Jacks.
  • Of the 57 cases, 16 involved DUI arrests. Of those 16 individuals, 13 told police they took their last drink at Cowboy Jacks.
  • The average BAC of DUI arrests from Cowboy Jacks was .172, more than double the legal limit. For other DUI arrests, the average BAC was .132.

The Plymouth City Council said the bar could face significant sanctions if the trend continues. If the bar is named as the last drink destination of three people arrested for alcohol-related offenses within a three-month period, Cowboy Jacks could be fined or have its liquor license revoked.

“They are incomparable to anyone else. The numbers are that staggering,” said Plymouth police chief Mike Goldstein.

While the findings are surprising, there are a number of other factors that haven’t been considered. For example, maybe police target the bar’s patrons around closing time, and ultimately, the bar isn’t forcing anyone to get in their car when they are over the limit.

Minnesota Dram Shop Laws

Alcohol license revocation could be the least of the bar’s worries in the event that one of their inebriated patrons ends up hurting or killing someone else. Under Minnesota’s Dram Shop law, “A spouse, child, parent, guardian, employer, or other person injured in person, property, or means of support, or who incurs other pecuniary loss by an intoxicated person or by the intoxication of another person, has a right of action in the person’s own name for all damages sustained against a person who caused the intoxication of that person by illegally selling alcoholic beverages.”

Cowboy Jacks wouldn’t be illegally selling alcoholic beverages in the traditional sense, but under the state’s dram shop law, it’s illegal for an establishment to sell alcohol to a minor or an obviously intoxicated person. Some people hold their liquor much better than others, so proving that someone was “obviously intoxicated” at the time they were served is difficult.

Hopefully Cowboy Jacks retrains its bartenders to spot drunk patrons and does more to provide transportation options for those who clearly shouldn’t be driving.

Related source: Bring Me The News, Minnesota Sun Sailor, The Partnership for Change

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