This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota,





Paula Lynn Bachtle,



Filed September 2, 2003


Halbrooks, Judge



Freeborn County District Court

File No. K0011239


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Omar A. Syed, Assistant Attorneys General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Davi E. Axelson, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Paula Lynn Bachtle challenges her convictions of driving while impaired in the second degree and driving while impaired with an alcohol content in excess of .10 or more in the second degree on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to sustain them.  We affirm.


            In an earlier appeal, Bachtle challenged the revocation of her driver’s license.  Bachtle v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, No. C3‑01‑1545, 2002 WL 453214 (Minn. App. Mar. 26, 2002).  This court affirmed the revocation.  Id. at *3.  The facts relevant to this case were set forth in Bachtle and will not be reproduced here.  Id. at *1-*2.


            Bachtle argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support her convictions for driving while impaired in the second degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1); .26, subd. 1; .03, subd. 20 (2000), and driving while impaired with an alcohol content in excess of .10 or more in the second degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(5); .26, subd. 1; .03, subd. 20 (2000).  When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court’s review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to allow the fact-finder to reach the verdict that it did.  State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989).  We apply the same standard of review to bench trials as to jury trials when determining whether the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction.  Davis v. State, 595 N.W.2d 520, 525 (Minn. 1999). 

Bachtle’s argument is based on the fact that the arresting officer’s trial testimony with respect to the timeline of the events immediately preceding Bachtle’s arrest differed from his testimony at the implied-consent hearing.  It is the exclusive role of the district court in a bench trial to determine the weight and credibility of witness testimony.  State v. Folkers, 581 N.W.2d 321, 327 (Minn. 1998).  In considering an appeal based on insufficiency of the evidence, this court assumes that the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved evidence to the contrary.  State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).  We will not disturb the verdict if the fact-finder, acting with proper regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could have reasonably found the defendant guilty of the charged offense or offenses.  State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).

            Under Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(1), any person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of any motor vehicle within the State of Minnesota while under the influence of alcohol has committed the crime of driving while impaired.  Additionally, any person who drives, operates, or is in physical control of any motor vehicle within the State of Minnesota whose alcohol concentration is, at that time or within 2 hours of that time, .10 or more has committed the crime of driving while impaired.  Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(5).  A person who is in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20 (driving while impaired), is guilty of driving while impaired in the second degree if one statutory aggravator is present.  Minn. Stat. § 169A.26, subd. 1.  Under Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 20, a prior impaired driving conviction includes a prior conviction under section 169A.20.  A prior impaired driving conviction is a statutory aggravator under Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 3.

            Bachtle acknowledges that the only element of the convictions at issue is whether she drove, operated, or was in physical control of a motor vehicle on the night in question.  The same judge presided over Bachtle’s implied-consent hearing and criminal trial.  In the implied-consent order, the trial court stated that

while the [Commissioner of Public Safety’s] case was not one that would have convinced the Court “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it did put forth a case which showed that it was simply more likely than not that [appellant] did, in fact, drive the Honda Civic . . . at the time in question.


Bachtle argues that, because virtually the same evidence presented at the implied-consent hearing was presented at the criminal trial, the evidence is not sufficient to support her convictions beyond a reasonable doubt.

            We note that Bachtle is not asserting an argument that collateral estoppel applies in this matter.[1]  Her challenge rests on a credibility assessment of a critical witness.  Although the district court noted that, at the time of the implied-consent hearing, it was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Bachtle was driving her vehicle at the time in question, the court was not bound by this dictum in the later criminal proceeding.  In each separate proceeding, it is the province of the court to weigh the evidence, make credibility determinations, and reach a verdict based on the evidence presented.

            Bachtle makes much of the fact that Officer Carlson’s testimony regarding the time frame and sequence of events on the night in question differed at the implied-consent hearing and at the criminal trial.  At Bachtle’s implied-consent hearing, Carlson testified that the officers left Matson’s home at 5:28 a.m.  Bachtle testified that she left the scene on foot at 5:33 a.m., that it took her 15 minutes to walk to her residence, and that she arrived home five minutes before Officer Carlson arrived.  Based on this testimony, Bachtle would have arrived at her residence at 5:48 a.m.  Because Officer Carlson saw Bachtle at her residence at 5:45 a.m., the court did not credit Bachtle’s theory.

            The state’s evidence that Bachtle was driving a motor vehicle at the time in question consists solely of Officer Carlson’s testimony.  Carlson testified that due to prior contact with her, he was “100 percent confident who . . . Paula Bachtle [is].”  Officer Carlson also testified that he saw the driver of Bachtle’s vehicle as the vehicle was driven past him from a distance of about 15 to 20 feet in an illuminated area and that he was certain that the driver was Bachtle.  In addition, Carlson saw the person who got out of Bachtle’s vehicle after it pulled into Bachtle’s driveway, and Carlson again identified this person as Bachtle.

            In order to support a conviction, identification testimony need not be positive and certain; it is enough that the witness testify that in his opinion, belief, or judgment, the defendant was the person he saw commit the crime.  State v. Johnson, 568 N.W.2d 426, 435 (Minn. 1997).  When conflicting testimony is presented, it is the unique function of the trier of fact to weigh the credibility of the witnesses.  Tolzmann v. McCombs-Knutson Assocs., 447 N.W.2d 196, 198 (Minn. 1989).  “[A] conviction may rest on the testimony of a single credible witness.”  State v. Miles, 585 N.W.2d 368, 373 (Minn. 1998).

            The trial court noted in its memorandum that, although it also heard Bachtle’s implied-consent matter, the court made its determination concerning the current charges based solely on the evidence presented at the criminal trial.  The trial court also stated that it found the state’s witness, who placed Bachtle “behind the wheel of the vehicle in question,” to be credible and specifically noted that it was “unable to afford [Bachtle’s] testimony a great deal of credibility.”

            At Bachtle’s criminal trial, Officer Carlson testified that he believed that he and the other officers left Matson’s home at 5:16 a.m.  Carlson stated that his testimony at the implied-consent hearing was based on the call-for-service record and the time reflected on that record may have been inaccurate due to the dispatcher’s delay in entering into the computer.  In contrast to his testimony in the implied-consent hearing, the officer’s trial testimony made it physically possible for Bachtle to have walked home and arrived before Carlson saw her.  But simply because a defense theory is physically possible does not automatically amount to reasonable doubt.

Here, the trial court heard the testimony, made credibility determinations and concluded that Bachtle’s theory was not credible.  Given this court’s deference to the trial court’s credibility determinations, we conclude that sufficient evidence was presented at trial to allow a reasonable fact-finder, acting with proper regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to have reasonably found Bachtle guilty of the offenses charged.


[1]  This court concluded in State v. Victorsen, 627 N.W.2d 655, 663 (Minn. App. 2001), that, because the Commissioner of Public Safety and the State of Minnesota are in privity, if a prosecutor is given notice and an opportunity to participate at an implied-consent hearing, the prosecutor will be later estopped from opposing the binding effect of an order from the earlier hearing.