This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Mark Steven Somody, petitioner,





Commissioner of Public Safety,



Filed December 3, 2002


Harten, Judge


Kandiyohi County District Court

File No. C4-02-220


Andrew S. Birrell, Jennifer E. Speas, Robert T. Snider, Birrell & Newmark, Ltd., 510 First Avenue North, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Francis Green, III, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant Mark Steven Somody challenges the district court order sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license under the implied consent law.  Appellant claims that his involvement in an unexplained snowmobile accident and disputed statements about his pre-accident alcohol consumption did not amount to probable cause to believe he was driving while under the influence.  We affirm.



On 27 November 2001, at approximately 10:30 p.m., a Kandiyohi County deputy sheriff was dispatched to the scene of a snowmobile accident.  The deputy found appellant lying on the ground next to a snowmobile and receiving medical attention.  Appellant had driven his snowmobile into a parked pickup truck.  The deputy observed that the roads were snow packed, and it was dark.

            The deputy spoke with the pickup owner who told him that the pickup was not running and did not have its lights on at the time of the accident.  The owner also said that other snowmobiles had passed by before appellant struck the pickup.   

            The deputy then spoke with Gene Sterzinger who had been snowmobile riding with appellant that evening.  The deputy testified that Sterzinger told him that the snowmobilers had just come from the American Legion and had consumed a beer.  The deputy also learned that Sterzinger and appellant had been riding since approximately 8:00 p.m.  The deputy testified that Sterzinger told him that he and appellant had a drink earlier that night and that appellant might have had a few drinks before meeting Sterzinger at 8:00 p.m. 

            The deputy did not attempt to speak with appellant at the scene because a medical team was working on appellant’s injuries.  The deputy could hear appellant moaning but heard no other response from him.

            As appellant was being loaded into an ambulance to go to the hospital, a second deputy sheriff arrived at the scene.  The second deputy went to the hospital to obtain a blood sample from appellant but, when he arrived, appellant was receiving medical treatment in the emergency room.  He did not give appellant the implied consent advisory because he was told that appellant was unconscious and that a helicopter was in route to pick him up.  A blood sample was then taken from appellant.  The BCA results indicated an alcohol concentration of .14. 

On 4 April 2002, an implied consent hearing was held.  The issue was whether there was probable cause to believe that appellant had been driving while impaired before the police seized a blood sample.  The district court ruled:

Where a driver of a snowmobile runs into a parked pick-up truck for no immediately apparent reason, and the police receive information from [the driver's] riding partner that he and the [driver] had been consuming alcoholic beverages in two separate bars that evening, there is sufficient probable cause to believe the unconscious snowmobile driver was intoxicated. 


This appeal followed.


“After the facts are determined, this court must apply the law to determine if probable cause existed” to invoke the implied consent law.  Groe v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 615 N.W.2d 837, 840 (Minn. App. 2000) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. 13 Sept. 2000).  “This court does not review probable cause determinations de novo, instead, we determine if the police officer had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed at the time of invoking the implied consent law.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  “A reviewing court must consider the totality of the circumstances when determining probable cause.”  Id. (citation omitted).

The implied consent law should be “liberally construed in favor of protecting the public and given the broadest possible effect.”  Johnson v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 366 N.W.2d 347, 350 (Minn. App. 1985) (citation omitted).  Probable cause must be evaluated from the point of view of the officer who is permitted to make inferences from the circumstances, the officer’s experience and judgment being entitled to great deference.  Id. 

To have probable cause, an officer need not observe any “commonly-known physical indicia of intoxication.”  State v. Lee 585 N.W.2d 378, 382 (Minn. 1998).  Rather, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the administration of an alcohol test will result in the discovery of evidence relevant in the prosecution of a crime.  Id.  This is because “ingestion of alcohol in amounts less than those needed to cause gross outward symptoms of intoxication can have a substantial adverse effect on a driver's judgment.”  Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

Here, there was adequate evidence to sustain a finding of probable cause.  The deputy was told that appellant had consumed at least one beer, that appellant had stopped at two bars that evening, and that he possibly had some drinks prior to beginning the ride.  The deputy also learned that prior to the accident, other snowmobilers had passed the truck without incident.  See id. at 381 (finding that the nature of an accident can help to establish probable cause where there is objective evidence of inattention).  Considering as a whole these factors, including the nature of the accident (which supports an inference of inattention), we conclude that the deputy had a substantial basis to believe that the administration of an alcohol test would result in the discovery of evidence relevant in the prosecution of a crime. 


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.