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Jensen v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 3, 2019

Pauline Christin Jensen, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent.

          Pipestone County District Court File No. 59-CV-18-58

          Jeffrey S. Sheridan, Sheridan and Dulas, P.A., Eagan, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Stephen D. Melchionne, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Bratvold, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The commissioner of public safety may not revoke a driver's license based on blood test results exceeding the statutory alcohol-concentration limit without a hearing under Minnesota Statutes, section 171.177, subdivision 5 (2018), unless the officer directing the test gives the driver the refusal-is-a-crime warning required by subdivision 1 of the statute.

          OPINION

          ROSS, JUDGE

         A Pipestone County patrol sergeant obtained a search warrant to draw and test Pauline Jensen's blood after she drove into and injured a child with her car and failed field sobriety tests. The blood test showed that Jensen's alcohol concentration exceeded the statutory limit, and the commissioner of public safety revoked her license under Minnesota Statutes, section 171.177, subdivision 5. Jensen petitioned for judicial review, arguing that her license could not be revoked because the sergeant had not given her the statutory warning that refusing to submit to the test is a crime. The district court upheld the revocation. Because the statute requires police to issue the warning as a prerequisite to a prehearing license revocation, we reverse and remand for the district court to rescind the revocation.

         FACTS

         One night in December 2017, Pipestone County patrol sergeant Paul Mathews responded to a call reporting that a child had been struck by a car at a gas station in Ruthton. Sergeant Mathews arrived to find first responders treating a teenage boy whose face and body were bleeding from abrasions and who was having difficulty breathing.

         A witness told Sergeant Mathews that Pauline Jensen had run over the boy with her car. Jensen had left the scene. Sergeant Mathews found Jensen's car in front of the Sunset Bar and Grill and found her inside. He noticed that Jensen had bloodshot and watery eyes, stared blankly into the distance when he spoke to her, smelled of alcoholic beverages, and had unstable balance. Sergeant Mathews arrested Jensen on suspicion of drunk driving, second-degree assault, and criminal vehicular operation, and he took her to the Pipestone County Jail. There he administered field sobriety tests, which she failed, and a preliminary breath test, which registered an alcohol concentration of 0.17. The sergeant obtained a search warrant to draw and test Jensen's blood. He served Jensen with a copy of the warrant and took her to the Pipestone County Medical Center, where a medical technician drew the blood sample. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension analyzed the sample and reported an alcohol concentration over the 0.08 statutory limit. The Commissioner of Public Safety revoked Jensen's license based on the test results.

         Jensen petitioned for judicial review, arguing that her driver's license should be reinstated because the sergeant had not warned her that test refusal is a crime, as required by Minnesota Statutes, section 171.177, subdivision 1 (2018), and because the sergeant also never gave her the opportunity to speak with counsel. The district court denied Jensen's petition, reasoning that, because the warrant indicated that there was probable cause to believe that Jensen committed criminal vehicular operation causing bodily harm under Minnesota Statutes, section 609.2113, subdivision 2 (2016), she had no option to refuse the test and failure to give the required warning was therefore irrelevant.

         Jensen ...


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