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State of Minnesota v. David Gustave Hawkinson

April 24, 2013

STATE OF MINNESOTA, APPELLANT,
v.
DAVID GUSTAVE HAWKINSON, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS A defendant's due process right to a fair trial is not violated by the State's destruction of potentially useful evidence when the defendant cannot show that the State destroyed the evidence in bad faith. A defendant does not have a right under the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution to conduct forensic testing on physical evidence because the Confrontation Clause protects the right to cross-examine witnesses, not physical evidence. The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure do not require that a defendant be given access to physical evidence against him when he is charged with the misdemeanor driving-while-impaired offense of driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The State's destruction of a blood sample did not violate the defendant's due process or Confrontation Clause rights, or violate the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure; therefore, the district court erred when it suppressed the results of forensic tests conducted upon the blood sample.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Paul H., Justice.

Court of Appeals

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Anderson, Paul H., J. Took no part, Wright, J.

Office of Appellate Courts

Reversed and remanded.

OPINION

The State charged David Gustave Hawkinson with several misdemeanor offenses, including driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. Hawkinson pleaded not guilty and moved to suppress the results of his blood-alcohol test. The Hennepin County District Court granted Hawkinson's motion to suppress the evidence and the State filed a pretrial appeal. In a published opinion, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's suppression order. State v. Hawkinson, 812 N.W.2d 201, 205 (Minn. App. 2012). In essence, the court of appeals adopted a per se rule requiring suppression when the State destroys evidence after a defendant has made a demand to preserve the evidence. Id. at 203-05. The State petitioned for review and asks us to determine the standard a district court must apply when considering whether to admit the results of a blood test in a misdemeanor driving-while-impaired (DWI) case when the State has destroyed a blood sample in accordance with its retention policy, but after the defendant has filed a request to preserve "blood tests." We reverse.

In the early hours of March 20, 2010, a City of Plymouth police officer stopped respondent David Gustave Hawkinson, who was driving a sport-utility vehicle. Hawkinson was arrested on suspicion of DWI. Hawkinson was given an "Implied Consent Advisory" and offered the opportunity to take a blood test. Hawkinson consented to the test and was then driven to North Memorial Hospital in Maple Grove, where a blood sample was taken at approximately 3:40 a.m. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) tested Hawkinson's blood sample and issued a report on April 8, 2010. The BCA report indicated that, when the blood sample was drawn, Hawkinson had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.11 grams per 100 milliliters of blood, a concentration that exceeded the 0.08 legal limit in Minnesota. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(5) (2012). The State charged Hawkinson with several misdemeanor offenses, including driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

On June 10, 2010, Hawkinson served a "Demand for Disclosure and Discovery and Demand for Preservation of All Evidence by Defendant" on the State. Hawkinson's letter included a request to preserve "blood tests." The relevant passage of the letter reads as follows:

Defendant, by his counsel, hereby demands that the prosecution preserve and maintain all evidence that may have been obtained by and about Defendant herein including, but not limited to, the following items: police squad car video tapes, Implied Consent Advisory video and/or audio tapes, jail or law enforcement centers security tapes, blood tests, urine tests, photographs, all statements of any and all alleged witnesses herein in both video and audio form, computers, computer hard drives, computer software, and any and all other scientific tests, test[] examinations, documents, recordings, and all other evidence normally obtained by or about Defendant herein in any manner or form under the direction, care, custody, or control of law enforcement and the prosecution herein.

(emphasis added). The State did not forward Hawkinson's request to the BCA.

On July 12, 2010, Hawkinson sent the BCA a letter requesting information relating to Hawkinson's prosecution, including test reports, test records, information sheets, chain-of-custody logs, and quality reports. On August 10, 2010, the BCA e- mailed a copy of the requested documents to both Hawkinson and the State, including the BCA's April 8, 2010 report. The report contained a statement that Hawkinson's blood sample would be "destroyed by the laboratory twelve months following the date of this report." The BCA subsequently destroyed Hawkinson's blood sample.

On September 10, 2010, Hawkinson moved to suppress the results of the blood test and to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that the Implied Consent Advisory given to him was misleading and coercive, and that a search warrant was required before a blood sample could be drawn and tested. The district court ruled against Hawkinson.

On August 25, 2011, over 16 months after the BCA completed its April 8, 2010 report, Hawkinson telephoned the BCA to inquire about the status of his blood sample. The BCA informed Hawkinson that the blood sample had been destroyed. The same day that Hawkinson requested this information, he filed a motion with the district court requesting the suppression of the blood-test evidence. On August 29, 2011, the court conducted a hearing on Hawkinson's motion to suppress. Ruling from the bench, the court found that the blood sample "could be exculpatory" and suppressed the blood-test results. On October 5, 2011, the court issued its "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order to Suppress Blood Test" that explained the August 29th bench ruling. In its written findings, the court stated that the blood-test results were suppressed because: (1) Hawkinson had been denied his right to due process; (2) the destruction of the blood sample violated Hawkinson's Confrontation Clause rights; and (3) the failure to preserve the blood sample was a violation of the "Minnesota criminal discovery process."

The State appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's conclusion that the destruction of the blood sample violated Hawkinson's right to due process, but did not reach the Confrontation Clause or the "right to [Minnesota] criminal discovery procedure" issues. Hawkinson, 812 N.W.2d at 203 n.1. The State appealed to our court "seek[ing] review of the district court's order suppressing the blood test result and the Court of Appeals' affirmance." The State raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the district court erred in granting Hawkinson's motion to suppress on due process grounds; (2) whether Hawkinson's cross-examination ...


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