Recently the US Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the practice of testing people for blood alcohol levels without a warrant was unconstitutional. This raised the question of what would happen to people charged, prior to the April, 2013 SC ruling. Would they be allowed to take back their guilty plea of driving under the influence?

Consider the case of the MN resident Shawn O’Connell who pleaded guilty to a DUI offense in Bloomington, 8 months before the SC ruling.

About a year ago O’Connell with the help of his DUI attorneys requested to the court that he be allowed to take back his plea, as MN law allows law enforcement to take blood alcohol tests without a warrant, assuming implied consent from the driver. The court denied his appeal. O’Connell’s DUI attorneys have appealed the court’s decision in the MN Court of Appeals.

Common sense

Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman presiding over the case in the Court of Appeals has upheld the court’s decision. The judge explained that MN law enforcement tested suspected drivers on the spot because the time spent in attaining a warrant was enough to allow the blood alcohol content level to drop, by which time the driver will have also sobered up.

He said that the US Supreme Court and Minnesota Supreme Court have not clarified the law as of yet and therefore this being a new law would not apply to previous cases.

The judge also said that the different types of tests like breath and urine tests conducted by law enforcement were procedural and required in order to apprehend a suspect and would not in any way mitigate the underlying guilt of the person charged.

Fourth time Minnesota DUI offender allowed faith based treatment instead of full prison sentence

In an attempt to pursue a course of sentencing that would prove to be more helpful to the defendant and reduce DUI offenses a MN District Court Judge, Michael Thompson has allowed 26 year old Brandon Gilbert to seek treatment for alcoholism through a faith based program and not send him to prison.

Sentenced for 64 months in prison for his fourth DUI offense, a tearful Gilbert reiterated his sincere belief that he will recover from alcoholism if given the opportunity to attend a Church Based program known as Teen Challenge. But 64 months in prison will not do the same thing? This suspect has any credibility after four chances?

The judge has placed Gilbert on probation for the 13 months during which he will be attending the program. The judge underlined the importance of Gilbert staying sober during this time, and warned him that the use of a mouthwash with alcohol content could result in a violation of his probation. According to St. Cloud DUI attorneys, this is undoubtedly a unique judgment that could help Gilbert reform.

The use of alternate sentencing

Judge Thompson said that he was taking a great risk by stepping away from traditional sentencing. Although many would expect Gilbert to be incarcerated, the judge found Teen Challenge to be a credible program which offered him a poignant opportunity to recover. The judge was of the opinion that if left untreated, he would go back to his same old ways and cause more drunk driving offenses. But prison is an excellent way to clean up and it delivers the punishment to the criminal as well.

Gilbert’s 4th DUI charge came after he drove his truck with a suspended license and while impaired at speeds of 100mph on the highway on Halloween night. In spite of warnings from a State Trooper’s vehicle, he accelerated and swerved through the lanes and braked suddenly in the hopes of getting the Trooper’s vehicle to rear end him.

A lenient sentence for someone who almost killed other people and played games with law enforcement on the road

The judge also ruled that Gilbert spend at least three months in jail for additional offenses such as deceiving the authorities to avoid a sobriety test and having his own signature forged to show that he attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Only after the prison term he would be able to join the Teen Challenge program in Duluth.