In the criminal justice system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, right? That does not always appear to be the case. A recent DWI case involving an attorney who will likely be seeking election to our State's Supreme Court highlights this issue. Law enforcement stopped Michelle MacDonald for speeding in April 2013. The officer who stopped her initiated a DWI stop and asked her to perform field sobriety tests which she refused because she said she had not been drinking that night. MacDonald's refusal continued at the police station, where she refused to take a chemical test to determine if she had alcohol in her system. Refusing to take such a test is an automatic gross misdemeanor DWI charge under Minnesota law. That's a more severe charge than most first time DWI offenses. MacDonald, like all defendants charged with refusing to take a chemical test, is in the position of having to prove her innocence. She must prove to some degree that she was not drinking that night and the police officer did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion to perform field sobriety tests on her or probable cause to arrest her for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Defense attorneys in Minnesota have been fighting even harder against the automatic elevated charge of refusal. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013) and the subsequent local case Minnesota v. Brooks, 838 N.W.2d 563 (Minn. 2013) have potential to help change DWI law in Minnesota.
More information on Michelle MacDonald can be found here.