DUI License Suspension Confirmed – Minnesota Attorney

A Minnesota man convicted in Wisconsin of drink driving had his Minnesota driver’s license revoked. In the case of Stewart Edward Underhill v. Commissioner of Public Safety, filed April 24, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that circuit courts cannot overturn the suspension of licenses because the out-of-state convictions are based on evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth of the Licensees have been granted modification rights.

Underhill raced in Dunn County, Wisconsin in June 2021. He was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Police took Underhill to a hospital, where they asked Underhill to provide a blood sample. They also told Underhill about the consequences of refusing the blood sample. Underhill eventually agreed to the blood draw. Analysis of Underhill’s blood sample showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

The Wisconsin DMV then shared all of this with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner informed Underhill that his license was suspended for a year, after which his license could be reinstated. Minnesota law requires the commissioner to suspend the driver’s license of a person convicted in another state of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater, and allows the commissioner to suspend the driver’s license.

Underhill petitioned the district court for a judicial review of the suspension. He argued that the Wisconsin official tricked him into providing his blood sample, which violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The commissioner responded that Underhill was not misled by the officer and that Underhill was unable to appeal the Wisconsin conviction in a Minnesota court.

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The district court drew conclusions from the exhibits presented by the commissioner to determine that Underhill was convicted because his blood alcohol level was above the limit. It supported the suspension of Underhill’s license.

Underhill appealed the district court’s decision. He did not question the court’s interpretation of the law; rather, he claimed the commissioner could not rely on his conviction from Wisconsin to suspend his license. Underhill argued that the suspension was unreasonable because the Wisconsin conviction was based on a violation of his constitutional rights, and because the arresting officer misrepresented applicable blood draw statutes.

The commissioner, on the other hand, maintained that the suspension was proper because Underhill engaged in conduct in Wisconsin that would have been a criminal offense in Minnesota and would have resulted in the revocation of his license. Additionally, the commissioner alleged that Underhill was unable to get his driver’s license reinstated while simultaneously attacking his conviction from Wisconsin.

The appeals court found that the commissioner was correct in relying on Underhill of Wisconsin’s conviction, despite the argument that the conviction violated Underhill’s Fourth Amendment rights. While Minnesota law allows for a very narrow exception to the general rule of recognizing a conviction in another state, this principle has never been applied in a civil proceeding.

“It’s almost criminal. It forms the basis of a criminal element or offense for amelioration purposes,” argued Charles Ramsay of Ramsay Law Firm, PLLC, who represented Underhill.

Ryan Pesch, Assistant Attorney General, argued, “To the extent of the complainant’s complaint of the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s proceedings, that should be brought in Wisconsin.”

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Ultimately, the court found that jurisdiction was not on Underhill’s side, noting that “Underhill’s liberty is not at stake.” Because Underhill’s case involved the use of police force to protect the public and not punishment or imprisonment, the court ruled that Underhill was unable to collaterally challenge the Wisconsin conviction.

The appeals court found that the commissioner correctly relied on the Wisconsin conviction when suspending the Minnesota driver’s license. It confirmed the opinion of the lower court.