After a police officer arrests you for a DWI offense in Minnesota, your first instinct might be to panic. However, you should remember that there are still a few steps left in the process before you end up with a conviction.
If your case ends up before the court on a motion hearing or before a jury on the merits of the case, your attorney may be able to convince the court or jury that the facts of the case don’t justify a conviction. Prior to that, though, a prosecutor could decide not to pursue your case further for one of several reasons.
So, what might those reasons be?
In order for a police officer to legally arrest you, search you, or search your vehicle, they must be able to show that there was probable cause to suspect you were committing a crime.
In Minnesota DWI cases, police officers usually establish probable cause using field sobriety tests. These are the walk-and-turn, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, and the one-leg stand. In all cases, it is up to the police officer to determine whether your performance on these tests indicates that you’re intoxicated.
If a police officer does not have probable cause to carry out an arrest, any evidence they collect after the arrest may be inadmissible in court.
A police officer does not need probable cause to carry out an initial vehicle stop. However, that doesn’t mean they can just stop you for no reason at all.
Unlike other states, Minnesota does not allow DWI checkpoints. Officers must stop vehicles on an individual basis, and, in order to do so, they must have reasonable suspicion that an offense of some kind is taking place. Erratic or unlawful driving would be one example of a factor that could create this reasonable suspicion.
If you can show that a police officer pulled you over unfairly in advance of a DWI arrest, a judge or prosecutor might agree to dismiss the case against you.
A court or jury cannot convict you of any criminal offense unless there is enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime in question. So, if there is an issue with a key piece of evidence the prosecution is using against you in your DWI charge, the case may fail.
Problems with breathalyzer tests or results, for example, can irreparably damage a drunk driving case. Your attorney might also be able to argue that your failure on field sobriety tests does not amount to proof that you were intoxicated, as the tests are subjective and can be affected by factors other than the consumption of alcohol.
There are also situations in which the prosecution cannot prove you were driving the vehicle before your DWI arrest, even if they do have proof you were intoxicated. For example, if you’re involved in an accident and there were no witnesses, it may be impossible to prove that you were driving the vehicle. In that situation, proof of intoxication might be insufficient for a drunk driving conviction.
In cases like these, having a competent DWI lawyer in your corner will maximize your chances of securing a dismissal or acquittal.
If one of the issues we’ve discussed here is a factor in your Minnesota DWI case, a judge or prosecutor may decide to throw it out. However, even if your DWI charge does proceed to trial, you can work with your attorney to build a solid case that will either secure an acquittal or minimize the penalties you’ll face in the event of a conviction.
If you’ve been arrested or charged in relation to a potential DWI offense in Minnesota, we can help you plan your next move. Contact us today and we’ll carry out an initial review of your case for free.