The Minnesota Court of Appeals releases its newly decided opinions each week on Tuesdays at 10 am. This last Tuesday, June 16, 2009, the Appellate Court handed down a decision that could have a huge impact for individuals who have received DUI charges in the last 8 years, as well as for individuals who will receive Minnesota DUI charges until the year 2016.
In its decision in the case of Odegard v. State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Appellate Court concluded that a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court issued in 2007 that precluded the use in DUI cases of unreviewed license revocations to enhance DUI charges is NOT retroactively applicable. The 2007 Supreme Court case was entitled State v. Wiltgen, and in it, the Minnesota Supreme Court created a new rule of constitutional criminal procedure in Minnesota, holding that any license revocation that had been challenged but not yet decided could not be used in a new Minnesota DUI charge to enhance the new DUI to a higher degree crime.
However, in Odegard, the Appellate Court decided that any convictions for DWI that were final before Wiltgen was decided in 2007 cannot be altered based on the rule pronounced in Wiltgen.
What does this mean for individuals facing DUI charges now? Here’s how the ruling in Odegard works: Lance Odegard had pled guilty in 2003 to first degree DWI. The enhancing factors that made his charge a first degree DWI were two prior DWI convictions, one from 1998 and one from 2001, and a 2002 Implied Consent Driver’s License Revocation. Therefore, with three enhancing factors in the ten year window prior to the 2003 DWI charge, Odegard was charged with first degree DWI. In 2008, after the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Wiltgen, Odegard appealed his first degree DWI, arguing that because one of the enhancing factors used to make his DWI a first degree charge was a license revocation that he had challenged and had not yet received review regarding at the time of his conviction for first degree DWI, like Wiltgen, he was entitled to have the license revocation precluded and the DWI dropped to a second degree.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed with Odegard’s argument. The Appellate Court said the point of the Supreme Court’s rule in Wiltgen was that the use of an unreviewed license revocation to enhance a subsequent DUI was unconstitutional because it denied the defendant of his due process rights, which were to have the revocation that was challenged reviewed and ruled on before it could be used to enhance another, later charge.
But the Appellate Court decided that Wiltgen should not be applied retroactively, and therefore did not apply to Odegard’s case, because his conviction for first degree DWI was final in 2003, before Wiltgen was decided in 2007.
The Appellate Court’s decision in Odegard means that everyone with a DUI charge that was enhanced due to a license revocation, if that revocation was under review at the time of conviction, cannot appeal his or her conviction on the grounds granted in Wiltgen.
Because there is a ten year window in Minnesota for enhancing DUI charges with prior DUI charges and license revocations, the ruling in Odegard means that individuals who received enhanced charges due to challenged license revocations in the last 8 years cannot take advantage of the due process protections in Wiltgen, because their convictions were final at the time Wiltgen was decided, just like Odegard’s was.
Looking to the future, because it takes 10 years for a DUI charge or license revocation to no longer fall in the window of prior convictions which can be used to enhance new charges, individuals facing Minnesota DUI charges will be feeling the effects of the Odegard decision until the year 2016!
You can check out the Appellate decision at: http://www.courts.state.mn.us/opinions/coa/current/OPa082012-0616.pdf
It is important for the Minnesota Driver to understand the significance of prior DWI convictions. If you are charged with a DUI, you should contact a skilled Minnesota/Minneapolis DWI Lawyer. Prior convictions for a DWI can be used against you at sentencing for potentially lengthy jail sentences. If you’ve been arrested or charged with a Minnesota DUI or DWI, call Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a Free Consultation.