The law firm of Sheridan & Dulas, P.A., represents clients in the Twin Cities metro area who have been charged with drunk driving. Our attorneys have more than 75 years of combined legal experience.
If you have been charged with DWI in the Minneapolis area, contact a lawyer from our Eagan law office about your legal options. Otherwise, read the information below to learn about some of our recent DWI cases.
Recent Minnesota DWI Settlements And Verdicts
Commissioner Must Give Timely Notice of Revocation
We were all brought up to believe that we would be presumed innocent of any allegation made against us unless and until the government could prove otherwise. So taking away a driver’s license before a hearing is held is about as un-American an act as there is. But that’s how it is done here in Minnesota: Revoke first-ask questions later! And worse yet, we give the power to revoke a license (and potentially end a livelihood) not to a judge or a jury, but to a cop on the street.
But as Jeff Sheridan has proven many times, that power is not without its limits. In this case, the commissioner sent the driver a Notice and Order of Revocation of her license in the mail. The commissioner represented that the notice was mailed on a particular day, but Sheridan told the client to be sure to hold on to the envelope it was mailed in. Sure enough, the postmark on the envelope showed that the notice was actually mailed four days after the date the commissioner claimed, leaving the driver virtually no time to get her affairs in order before the revocation commenced.
Not fair, found the judge. It is bad enough that this practice of “revoke first-ask questions later” is permitted at all. But if it is going to happen that way, everyone has to play by the rules. And because the commissioner didn’t play fair here, the court rescinded the revocation and the plate impoundment order, which will now be removed from the driver’s record.
Rule #1: Don’t be a Jerk
Jeffrey Sheridan won Minnesota drivers the right to consult with an attorney before deciding to whether to submit to alcohol concentration testing back in 1991. As a result of that case, police officers are now required to tell drivers they have the right to talk to a lawyer and “assist the driver in the vindication of that right.” Needless to say, officers have never been big fans of this right or particularly helpful in its vindication.
In this case, the driver contacted her family and friends in an effort to get consultation before her decision. After half an hour, the officer decided she had enough time and ended her access to the phone. He asked the driver if she would submit to a breath test and she refused because she hadn’t yet spoken to an attorney. The officer recorded her response as a refusal, issued an order of license revocation for four times longer than that for a test failure and charged her with the more serious criminal offense of Test Refusal.
Fifteen minutes later, attorney Jeff Sheridan called the police department at the request of the driver’s family. He reached the police dispatcher because it was after business hours. The dispatcher contacted the arresting officer and let him know that the attorney call the driver was waiting for had come, but the officer decided not to tell the driver the call had come, let the driver call Sheridan back or give her a chance to change her mind about testing. He had already started his paperwork as a refusal (with all its nasty consequences) and didn’t want to be bothered to start over. Big mistake. Now he lost it all.
Squad Video: A Blessing And A Curse
For decades, drivers found themselves powerless to fight an allegation that they performed poorly during a roadside DWI investigation. An officer would simply get on the witness stand and go on and on about how the driver stumbled and fell, slurred his or her words and reeked of alcohol. And if a driver dared to take the stand to claim otherwise, the prosecutor would pummel the driver with the results of the breath test to discredit the claim that the officer was making things up or exaggerating. Well, we can’t do much to combat a false allegation that a person smelled of alcohol, but thanks to modern technology, a driver can now fight back against an officer’s claims.
In this case, attorney Jeffrey Sheridan was able to use the officer’s own squad video to establish that the driver performed the field sobriety tests exactly as described by the officer, despite the officer’s testimony that he failed every one of the tests. And because the court could see for itself the driver passed the field tests, it found the officer had no lawful justification to expand the investigation to include a portable breath test. Sheridan argued that in the absence of the illegally obtained PBT result, there was no probable cause for the arrest and the driver’s license revocation order had to be rescinded. The court agreed.
Fishing In Another’s Pond Prohibited
Can an officer hunt for drunk drivers anywhere she wants? No, according to this district court’s order.
The problem with being an Airport Police Officer is that the airport is full of so many people in uniform (TSA, Air Marshals, Homeland Security), the job can get pretty boring. Who is going to commit a crime under all those watchful eyes? And it gets even worse after midnight when operations slow to a crawl. This is when these bored officers start to wander into the surrounding communities looking for some action.
In this case, the arresting officer was miles away from the airport when she pulled over Jeff Sheridan’s client for allegedly crossing over lane dividing lines. The court found not only did the officer exaggerate the alleged violation, but her stop was illegal because she had no business acting like a police officer outside the boundaries of her jurisdiction. The law does provide that an officer may make a stop for illegal conduct she observes outside her jurisdiction if she has a legitimate reason related to her job that took her there. But in the absence of that legitimate reason, she is nothing more than a private citizen. Because the court found the stop to be illegal, all evidence obtained as a result of the stop was suppressed and the license revocation rescinded.
Officer Cannot Commit His Own Crime To Get Into Position To Watch You
Can an officer speed to get into a position to observe your bad driving? No, according to the Dakota County District Court. In this case, the officer testified that there was nothing for him to observe in the area where he was, so he sped to catch up to a car off in the distance. When he caught up, he observed a couple minor traffic violations that formed the basis of his traffic stop.
Attorney Jeffrey Sheridan challenged the lawfulness of the stop, arguing that the police don’t get to commit their own traffic violations to get into position to observe someone else’s. The district court agreed and ruled in the driver’s favor. The remedy for an illegal stop is that all the evidence obtained thereafter must be excluded from the case. Because all the evidence that the driver was driving while intoxicated was found after the illegal stop, the court was obligated to rescind the license revocation.
Sheridan Gets Court To Expand Exclusionary Rule To B-Card Cases
For years, people who have had restricted driver’s licenses that prohibit the consumption of alcohol or drugs (B-Cards) have not enjoyed the same constitutional protections to be free from illegal searches and seizures as everyone else. The justification for denying that protection was that the evidence found in illegal searches would already be suppressed and excluded from the state’s criminal and implied consent cases, so there was no reason to expand the exclusionary rule to the B-Card case as well. Police have used this distinction for years to subject B-Card holders to indiscriminate searches and use the illegally obtained evidence to cancel the person’s license, but file no criminal charges. That way, the license would be lost and the driver would have no way of challenging the legality of the police conduct.
Jeffrey Sheridan has been fighting on behalf of Minnesota drivers for 25 years. In April 2012, Sheridan convinced a Dakota County District Court judge that in cases where a driver has no other venue to challenge illegal police conduct, the exclusionary rule must apply to the B-Card hearing. Otherwise, there would be no way to prevent this type of police misconduct. The judge agreed.
Contact A Minneapolis DWI Lawyer Today
Contact our office today at 651-686-8800 to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. Our lawyers practice across the Twin Cities, including Dakota, Washington, Hennepin, Scott, Carver, Ramsey, Goodhue and Anoka counties, and in greater Minnesota.