This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





Jeffrey Carter Watts, Jr.,




Filed November 18, 2003


Anderson, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 02056758



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Stephen V. Grigsby, 210 North Second Street, Suite 50, Minneapolis, MN  55401 (for appellant)


Paul D. Baertschi, Tallen & Baertschi, 4640 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Anderson, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




            Following a bench trial, appellant was convicted of violating Minn. Stat. § 169A.33(2) (2002), underage drinking and driving.  On appeal, appellant challenges both the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him, and the use and administration of a preliminary breath test (“PBT”) to determine his guilt.  Because the district court properly found appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, based on sufficient evidence other than the PBT, we need not reach the issues raised regarding the PBT, and we affirm.



            On July 14, 2002, at 3:15 a.m., Robbinsdale police officer Christine Layne observed appellant Jeffrey Carter Watts in a vehicle stopped in the middle of an intersection. Layne then observed appellant drive the vehicle through the intersection with what appeared to be a flat tire, and with the tire partially off the rim.    

            Layne stopped appellant’s car, walked up to the driver’s side window, and asked appellant for his driver’s license.  While examining the license, Lane smelled the order of an alcoholic beverage coming from the car.  Layne asked appellant if he had consumed any alcohol that night and appellant told Layne, “[Y]es, I had a few beers.”  After ascertaining that appellant was twenty years old, Layne asked appellant to step out of the car and submit to a PBT.  After the PBT registered a .047, Layne told appellant he was under arrest.    

            Layne testified that appellant’s eyes were bloodshot, and while appellant was in the back of Layne’s squad car, the officer smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on appellant’s person; Layne recognized the smell from her training and experience as a police officer. 

            The district court found that two separate sources of evidence admitted at trial—the officer’s observations in conjunction with appellant’s admission and the PBT results—independently established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The district court concluded that “Officer Layne’s observations taken in concert with the defendant’s admissions prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was physical evidence of alcohol consumption in the Defendant’s body at the time Officer Layne stopped him.”  The district court also acknowledged that the PBT results, considered separately from Layne’s observations, were sufficient to prove appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The district court held that appellant was guilty of underage drinking and driving.  Appellant appeals from this conviction.



            In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a criminal conviction, this court must determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the fact-finder to reach the resulting verdict.  See State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989).  Our examination “is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record.”  Id.  The “[e]vidence is sufficient to support a conviction if, given the facts in the record and any legitimate inference to be drawn from those facts, the fact-finder could reasonably find that the defendant committed the crime.”  State v. Colvin, 629 N.W.2d 135, 138 (Minn. App. 2001) (citing State v. Wilson, 535 N.W.2d 597, 605 (Minn. 1995)), review granted (Minn. Sept. 11, 2001), rev’d on other grounds, 645 N.W.2d. 449 (Minn. 2002).This standard is the same irrespective of whether the evidence was considered at a jury trial or a bench trial.  See State v. Mytych, 292 Minn. 248, 251-52, 194 N.W.2d 276, 279 (1972).

            The reviewing court must assume that the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary.  See State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).  Further, the reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the fact-finder, “acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence” and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.  See State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).

            Appellant was convicted of violating Minn. Stat. § 169A.33(2), underage drinking and driving.  To convict appellant of underage drinking, the court needed to find:

(1)  the defendant was under the age of twenty-one years;

(2)  the defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle;

(3)  at the time of driving or operating the vehicle, the defendant was consuming alcoholic beverages or, after having consumed alcoholic beverages, had physical evidence of the consumption present in the body; and

(4)  the defendant’s act took place on (or about) July 14, 2002, in Hennepin County.


See Id.

            It is undisputed that the state established beyond a reasonable doubt all but the third element of the offense. 

            Here, the district court, in its well-reasoned and well-written findings and conclusions, determined that the state had established the third element of the offense through Layne’s testimony that appellant had admitted he had been drinking, that appellant had bloodshot eyes, and that Layne detected the odor of alcoholic beverages on appellant’s person. 

Appellant argues that during cross-examination Layne admitted that she could not smell alcohol on appellant.  A full and fair reading of the record, however, establishes that Layne’s testimony provides ample support for the district court’s factual findings.  During direct examination Layne testified smelling “what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage coming from [appellant’s] vehicle.”  Layne further testified that the odor was coming from the area where appellant was sitting.  On cross-examination, Layne did admit that alcohol has no odor, but on re-direct the officer testified:

Q.    [Prosecutor] Okay.  How unique is an odor of an alcoholic beverage to you?


A.     [Layne] It’s very unique.

Q. So when you smell an alcoholic beverage, you’re acknowledging you’re not smelling the alcohol per se, you’re smelling the odor of an alcoholic beverage?


A. Right.

Q. Do you think that in your opinion that you could mistake an odor of what you believe is an alcoholic beverage for something that did not contain any alcohol?


A. No. 

            Viewing only the evidence of the officer’s observations and the appellant’s admission in the light most favorable to the conviction, it is clear that there was sufficient evidence to convict appellant of violating Minn. Stat. § 169A.33(2).  The district court did not err in finding that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant committed the crime in light of appellant’s admission, combined with Layne’s statements about appellant’s physical condition and the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person.  Because the district court, the fact-finder in this case, acted with due regard for both the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, we will not disturb the verdict.

            Appellant also raises a constitutional challenge to the use of the PBT results.  But because the district court found that Layne’s testimony provided independent proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this court need not address the constitutional issues raised by appellant.[1]


[1] State v. Hoyt, 304 N.W.2d 884, 888 (Minn. 1981) (holding that appellate courts “do not decide constitutional questions except when necessary to do so in order to dispose of the case at bar”).