Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DWI Law - Minnesota hands Out Consecutive Sentences In Refusal and DAC Case

In Minnesota v. Parker, Not Reported in N.W.2d, 2011 WL 3654394 (Minn.App.), the defendant was sentenced to consecutive sentences for Driving After Cancellation and Test Refusal. On appeal, the defendant claimed that consecutive sentencing was barred, because the two offenses occurred at virtually the same time, involving the same essential acts. In Minnesota, ordinarily a district court may not impose more than one sentence for multiple offenses committed during a single behavioral incident.

“[I]f a person's conduct constitutes more than one offense under the laws of this state, the person may be punished for only one of the offenses and a conviction or acquittal of any one of them is a bar to prosecution for any other of them.”

The test for determining if violations of two or more traffic statutes result from a single behavioral incident is whether they occur at substantially the same time and place and arise out of a continuous and uninterrupted course of conduct, manifesting an indivisible state of mind or coincident errors of judgment.

Many states have the same basic law prohibiting consecutive sentences (unless specifically authorized) for the same basic acts in their sentencing statutes. Minnesota found that the two acts did not prevent multiple sentencing:

"In Reimer, we concluded that “driving with an expired driver's license is a continuing offense that recurs every time appellant drives.” Id. at 177 (affirming the district court's conclusion that prosecution for driving with an expired license and DWI did not violate prohibition on serial prosecutions). “Moreover, the offenses of DWI and driving with an expired license do not manifest an indivisible state of mind or coincident errors of judgment. Appellant's decision to drive with an expired license may be attributed to errors in judgment wholly independent of his decision to drink and drive.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted). We noted in Reimer that “Minnesota courts have reached similar results in a variety of factual situations involving one or more motor vehicle violations.” Id.; see also State v. Meland, 616 N.W.2d 757, 760 (Minn.App.2000) (holding that driving with expired tabs and DWI did not arise from a single behavioral incident); State v. Butcher, 563 N.W.2d 776, 784 (Minn.App.1997) (holding that illegally transporting a firearm and DAC did not arise from a single behavioral incident), review denied (Minn. Aug. 5, 1997); State v. Bishop, 545 N.W.2d 689, 692 (Minn.App.1996) (holding that DAC and aggravated DWI involved dissimilar errors in judgment and therefore involved two offenses). DAC is considered “continuous” in nature and therefore does not meet the test of requiring “an indivisible state of mind or coincident errors of judgment.” State v. Reiland, 274 Minn. 121, 124, 142 N.W.2d 635, 638 (1966). We therefore conclude that appellant's convictions of DAC and test refusal do not arise from a single behavioral incident—regardless of whether they occurred at substantially the same time and place.

Thus, the court found that multiple sentences were not unauthorized. However, due to errors at to other sentencing issues (i.e. the score for defendant's criminal history, and an error in which sentence is first served) the case was remanded for further resentencing.

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