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State v. McDonnell

August 24, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
ERIC JAMES MCDONNELL, APPELLANT (A03-1358), DANIEL A. WALL, APPELLANT (A03-1512).



Aitkin County District Court. File No. K5032. Swift County District Court. File No. K103137.

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Anderson, Judge; and Forsberg, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The 2003 amendment to Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21, that excluded a license suspension for underage drinking and driving from the definition of "prior impaired driving-related loss of license" does not apply to a driving-while-impaired violation that occurred before August 1, 2003.

2. When the legislature enacts a statutory amendment that mitigates punishment for a criminal offense and the legislature states that the amendment applies to violations that occur on or after the effective date of the amendment, the amendment should not be applied to mitigate the punishment for a violation that occurred before the effective date of the amendment even though the conviction for the violation was not final when the amendment became effective.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peterson, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

In these consolidated appeals, appellants challenge their convictions of first-degree driving while impaired, arguing that a 2003 amendment to Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21, that excluded a license suspension for underage drinking and driving from the definition of "prior impaired driving-related loss of license" and became effective on August 1, 2003, should be retroactively applied to their driving violations, which occurred before August 1, 2003, because the amendment clarified, rather than changed, existing law. Alternatively, appellants argue that if the 2003 amendment does not retroactively apply to violations that occurred before August 1, 2003, they should benefit from the mitigating effect of the amendment because their convictions were not final on the effective date of the amendment. We affirm.

FACTS

Following an incident on January 2, 2003, appellant Eric James McDonnell was charged with first-degree driving while impaired (alcohol concentration over.10) in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(5), 169A.24 (2002). At that time, McDonnell's driving record included two license suspensions for underage drinking and driving. McDonnell moved to dismiss for lack of probable cause, arguing that his license suspensions for underage drinking and driving could not be used as a basis for charging him with first-degree driving while impaired. The district court found that because the license suspensions for underage drinking and driving occurred pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 171.18 (2002), the suspensions are prior impaired driving-related losses of license under Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21(1) (2002), that provide a basis for charging McDonnell with first-degree driving while impaired. Therefore, the district court denied McDonnell's motion.

In May 2003, the legislature amended Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21, to exclude from the statutory definition of "prior impaired driving-related loss of license" any license suspension arising from a violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.33 (2002), which is the statute that prohibits underage drinking and driving. 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 2, art. 9, § 1 (codified at Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21(c) (2003)). McDonnell moved for reconsideration of his motion to dismiss in light of the statutory amendment. Following a hearing, the district court denied the motion without making any findings.

The case was submitted to the district court for a trial on stipulated facts pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980), and the district court found McDonnell guilty of first-degree driving while impaired.

Following an incident on April 24, 2003, appellant Daniel A. Wall was charged with two counts of first-degree driving while impaired (impaired and alcohol concentration over.10) in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5), 169A.24. At that time, Wall's driving record included one license suspension for underage drinking and driving. Wall moved to dismiss for lack of probable cause, arguing that his license suspension for underage drinking and driving could not be used as a basis for charging him with first-degree driving while impaired. The district court found that a license suspension for underage drinking and driving pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 171.18, subd. 1(12), is a prior impaired driving-related loss of license under Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 21, and, therefore, the license suspension could be used as a basis for charging Wall with first-degree driving while impaired. The ...


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