A driver recently appealed his conviction for criminal vehicular operation to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In this particular case, the appellant argued that the evidence was insufficient to justify his conviction because the prosecution never proved that his BAC was above 0.08 at the time of the accident. The Court ultimately agreed, reversing appellant’s conviction.
The case began back in 2009 when appellant crashed into an ATV, seriously injuring the other driver. The appellant remained nearby and when the officer arrived at the scene of the accident, just a bit after 10:00 p.m., appellant admitted to having two cocktails an hour before the accident but none since the collision occurred. The officer testified that there was a slight smell of alcohol and administered a field sobriety test which showed several indicators of intoxication. The appellant was then arrested for DUI and a blood test, which was administered at 12:05 a.m., showed that appellant’s BAC was .09.
Appellant was charged with criminal vehicular operation along with several other charges. Once the criminal trial began, the judge decided that the prosecution’s expert would not be allowed to testify due to a violation of the state’s rules of discovery. The expert was intended to discuss the idea of retrograde extrapolation of a person’s blood-alcohol level. Appellant’s attorney moved for acquittal of all counts based on his alleged intoxication given that it was never shown to have been within two hours of his driving. The district judge denied the motion but the jury ended up acquitting appellant of all charges except criminal vehicular operation with a BAC over 0.08. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the judge stayed the sentence and put appellant on a five-year probation term.
Appellant’s argument boiled down to the state failing to show beyond a reasonable doubt that his BAC was 0.08 or greater at the time of the accident. Appellant claims that because his BAC was 0.09 more than two hours after the accident and the state never introduced any retrograde-extrapolation evidence, the jury had no basis to decide that his BAC could have been higher than the legal limit at the time of the collision.
The Court of Appeals agreed with appellant, saying that prosecutors never presented any evidence that his BAC at the time the accident occurred related to the BAC at the time he was finally tested.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals said that for someone to be convicted of driving with a BAC greater than 0.08, the prosecution will have to show either that the sample of blood was obtained within two hours of the last time that the defendant was driving or put an expert witness on the stand to testify about retrograde extrapolation of a person’s BAC.
Given that the state’s expert witness was not allowed to testify due to the discovery rule violation and that appellant’s blood sample was not taken within two hours of the crash, the Court of Appeals had no choice but to reverse appellant’s conviction.
To read the full opinion, click here.