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Supreme Court to review Minnesota DWI license revocation case

Supreme Court to review Minnesota DWI license revocation case

In June, we discussed a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that held that the legal defense of “necessity” is not available to challenge a driver’s license revocation in a civil implied consent proceeding. The Minnesota Supreme Court appears to be interested in the issue, as the high court has agreed to accept review of the lower courts’ rulings.

An implied consent license revocation case is handled separately from criminal charges in a driving while impaired case. A person who is arrested in Minnesota on suspicion of DWI can expect his or her driver’s license to be revoked. In order to challenge the revocation, the driver must file a challenge as soon as possible after the arrest to preserve the chance to raise a challenge.

In general, the implied consent law provides a specified list of allowable challenges to a DWI license revocation. However, defense lawyers may often bring other challenges, including constitutional challenges. A Monticello woman was arrested on suspicion of DWI in Northern Minnesota at a resort. She reportedly resolved the criminal charge with a plea to careless driving. But she raised the necessity defense in her implied-consent judicial review hearing.

As we discussed in June, the necessity defense can be raised in tough circumstances where a person accused of a crime shows evidence that there was no reasonable choice other than to break a law due to impending and overwhelming harm that may have flowed from complying with the law. It is essentially a defense of having no other reasonable choice.

The woman says that she and her husband had gotten into a dispute on the night of the offense at a cabin up north. She could not outrun her husband and sought the safety of her car. But, she claims that her husband jumped on the car and hit the windshield until it cracked. She drove, despite having consumed alcohol, to escape greater harm, she says.

The Minnesota Supreme Court will issue a ruling on this important issue of whether the necessity defense may be available in implied consent proceedings.

Source: Star Tribune, “Monticello woman fleeing abuse appeals her DWI case,” Mary Lynn Smith and Abby Simmons, Aug. 23, 2013

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