When evaluating whether you can beat your DWI case in Minnesota, a common first analysis is to look at how you came in contact with the police. Often, DWI cases start with a traffic stop. Others may begin with the vehicle already at a place of rest. In either scenario, you will want to review whether the officer conducted a seizure.
During traffic stops, a seizure is often apparent. The officer puts his lights and siren on and you pull over to the side of the road. To lawfully do that, the officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. This can range from a minor traffic violation, such as speeding, to weaving all over the road and crossing the lane lines multiple times without signaling. Officers in Minnesota may not stop a vehicle based on a mere whim or idle curiosity. If they do so, you can challenge the basis for the traffic stop / seizure and ask that all the evidence obtained thereafter be suppressed. If the court grants a pre-trial motion such as that one, it often leads to a dismissal of the DWI charges against you.
When law enforcement encounters a person whose vehicle is already stopped, determining whether a seizure occurred is important to analyze. Officers sometimes approach a vehicle already parked in a parking lot. Or, come up to someone’s driveway to a person sitting in their car who reportedly drove their vehicle earlier. If the officers block those people in, so they are not free to leave, or show authority so that a person does not feel like they leave, then you may want to argue a seizure occurred. If so, then the officer has to have reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred and not just approach because they are curious.
Even if the officer came into contact with you ends up being valid in court, there can be other issues to challenge. Such as, the basis to expand the stop into a DWI investigation, the basis to ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT), probable cause for your arrest, reading you the proper advisories, right to counsel, right to independent test, and issues with a blood, breath, or urine sample.
Lawyers search for ways to get a DWI dismissed in the pre-trial stages through challenging issues like the ones mentioned above. Even if the DWI does not get dismissed based on pre-trial issues, then it can still occur through plea negotiations with a prosecutor. Sometimes, prosecutors are willing to have someone plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as careless driving. If plea negotiations fail, and you were not successful with any pre-trial motions, then you can still try to get your DWI dismissed by having a trial in front of a judge or jury. At trial, you would be presumed innocent and it would be the prosecutor’s burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer could cross-examine the arresting officer and any other witnesses the prosecutor chose to testify. You could testify or invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not testify. Your lawyer would also present opening statements and closing arguments on behalf of your case. Having thorough discussions with your attorney about proceeding to trial is highly recommended. The reward of winning at trial is great. The risks need to at least be known before taking that step.