Greene Espel recently achieved victory for a client accused of violating a statute previously held to be unconstitutional. Matt Forsgren tried the case before a jury, which returned a complete acquittal. The statute in question was held to be unconstitutional upon a motion filed by Forsgren and Jenny Gassman-Pines in a separate case.
Minnesota’s commercial motor vehicle laws contain two conflicting criminal statutes governing drivers’ blood-alcohol content. One statute forbids drivers from having a .04 blood-alcohol-content (BAC) level. Another statute prohibits violating a federal regulation that prohibits drivers from having any “detectable presence of alcohol.”
In 2014, an accident occurred involving a commercial-motor-vehicle driver for a large, national company. After the accident, the driver tested at a .03 BAC level for alcohol. The driver was charged for having a detectable presence of alcohol despite being under the .04 BAC limit. While the criminal case was pending, a lawsuit with a multi-million dollar damages claim was commenced against the driver of the vehicle and his employer. Forsgren and Gassman-Pines represented the driver in the civil lawsuit while moving for the dismissal of the criminal charge on constitutional grounds, namely the irreconcilable conflict between the two statutes. They won. The civil case was subsequently resolved.
In 2016, our client was charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle with a .006 BAC under the statute that previously had been declared unconstitutional. In this case, however, the judge declined to declare the statute unconstitutional, resulting in a trial. With expert testimony from a forensic toxicologist, Forsgren successfully argued that the .006 BAC level was not scientifically reliable evidence of a detectable presence of alcohol. The jury agreed and returned a not-guilty verdict.
Matt Forsgren frequently represents clients navigating complex regulatory issues as well defendants facing criminal charges. This case drew on both areas of experience to the client’s benefit.