Winona, MN Criminal Defense Attorney J.P. Plachecki discusses what penalties a first time DWI-er might have to face.
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You are looking at the proverbial slap on the wrist but probably the worst thing that happens is you wear it on your record for 55 years. Years ago, I was hired by the head of the Minnesota State Patrol, Colonel Kittredge to defend his son on a case. And what I learned on that case usually, I remember I got there for the suppression hearing early and I had about five minutes to kill before the start of the hearing. So I had Colonel Kittredge on my right and his son on my left, I believe at that point, 17-years old. And I was going to talk about the Colonel’s shoes for five minutes and I learned that from Doug Thompson. I remember on the Maisy Meyer cases we rode the elevator up where our client was on trial for her life all Doug could do was talk about the husband’s shoes. So I learned then you don’t have to be talking about the case especially during breaks.
So on the Kittredge case, I had planned to fill the five minutes before the start of the hearing talking about the Colonel’s shoes but when I looked down, I noticed he had some black, nondescript shoes on. And I thought I can’t fill any time talking about those shoes. So I took the opportunity to ask him in my Doug Thomson-esque voice I said, “How do you think we’re gonna do, Colonel?” And without missing a beat he said, “We’re gonna lose and we’re gonna lose miserably.” At that point, I said, “You’re the head of the State Patrol you’ve been there 25 years, you’ve been the head five years you not only think we’re gonna lose you think we’re gonna lose miserably.” I said, “What am I missing? Why would you spend the money hiring me?” Without missing a beat the Colonel said, “A DWI in Minnesota stays on your record 55 years.”
So they had stopped young, I believe it was Gabe, for running a red light. At the suppression hearing, I first threw the officer what I thought was a kitten ball, a soft ball, an easy pitch. And I said, “Do you mean to tell me you can sit there under oath and tell me there’s no possibility he was into the pedestrian crosswalk while it was still yellow?” He didn’t see anything wrong in giving me the it was possible. The officer said he might have been in the pedestrian crosswalk while it was still yellow.
About an hour later, I still had him on the stand and I know he wanted to get off the stand. He was giving the judge the can I at least do a change of address form so I can get my mail up here look. And I threw him a final question, I said, “You mean you can sit there under oath and tell me there’s no possibility he was 10 feet into the intersection while it was still yellow?” And he said, “I can’t do it, he might have been.”
So in that case the judge took the case under advisement. I called the Colonel when I got the judge’s decision and I called him at the office so he said they’re at the house they’re getting ready to go on vacation. And I remember I called the house, the Colonel picked up the phone and I said, “Colonel, we got the judge’s decision, we didn’t do as well as I had hoped.” And he said, “We lost, right?” And I said, “No, we won but we didn’t get attorney’s fees.” And at that point, he was screaming in jubilation to the wife, to the daughter, to young Gabe and I swear, I had to hold the phone out here because he was screaming so much.
And what I took from that case was if it’s good enough for the head of the State Patrol to hire counsel even though he thought it was a dead loser, good enough for the average citizen. So the first DWI in Minnesota is small as I learned from that case, hangs on your record 55 years.