This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996)




State of Minnesota,



Leah Jedlicka,


Filed December 8, 1998


Lansing, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 96104388

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

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

Jerry Strauss, Daniel S. Adkins, Strauss & Associates, 145 Commerce at the Crossings, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]



In an appeal from conviction for careless driving, Leah Jedlicka challenges the district court's denial of her pretrial motion to suppress a written statement made to the police and the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction. The written statement duplicated voluntary comments properly admitted through oral testimony, and any infirmity in the admissibility of the written statement was harmless error. The evidence supports each element of careless driving, and we affirm.


A jury convicted Leah Jedlicka for careless driving on Highway 55 in Medina. Jedlicka was driving a car that struck and killed a motorist who was standing on the shoulder of the highway next to his disabled car. A police officer dispatched to the accident unsuccessfully attempted to revive the injured motorist and then spoke with Jedlicka, who identified herself as the driver of the car that had struck him. Jedlicka told the officer that she had reached down to adjust her radio, and just before impact she looked up and saw the motorist and the car. She also stated that she was on her way home from St. Cloud, where she had been at a restaurant.

The officer placed Jedlicka in his squad car, and a second officer spoke with her. Both the first and the second officers noticed the smell of alcohol on Jedlicka's breath and asked her whether she had been drinking. Jedlicka initially said no, but then admitted she had had three drinks two hours earlier in a St. Cloud bar. Jedlicka remained in the squad for approximately half an hour, after which the first officer asked her to complete a "First Party Statement" form[1] that requested identification information and a "statement of the event." After Jedlicka completed and signed the form, the first officer transported her to North Memorial Hospital to obtain a blood sample. Neither officer formally arrested Jedlicka or provided an oral Miranda warning. The form signed by Jedlicka contained all the elements of a Miranda warning.

At a Rasmussen hearing on Jedlicka's suppression motions, the district court ruled the written statement admissible and the blood sample inadmissible. See State v. Jedlicka, No. C0-97-1142, 1997 WL 668221 at *1 (Minn. App. Oct. 28, 1997) (declining to reach issue of blood-sample admissibility because it would not have critical impact on prosecution). At trial on the careless-driving charge, the state presented testimony from both officers who had talked to Jedlicka the night of the accident and from a third officer trained in accident reconstruction. Over objection, Jedlicka's written statement was also admitted into evidence. The jury found Jedlicka guilty of careless driving but not guilty of a companion charge of underage drinking and driving. Jedlicka challenges (1) the partial denial of her suppression motion, and (2) the sufficiency of the evidence to support the elements of careless driving.


When the facts are not in dispute, the propriety of a district court's pretrial ruling suppressing evidence is a question of law. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992). Questions of law receive de novo review. State v. Camacho, 561 N.W.2d 160, 170 (Minn. 1997). A determination that the district court erred in admitting a statement requires a reversal unless the error is "harmless beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Juarez, 572 N.W.2d 286, 291 (Minn. 1997) (citations omitted). To determine whether an error is harmless, we look at "the basis on which the jury rested its verdict." State v. Jones, 556 N.W.2d 903, 910 (Minn. 1996).

Jedlicka maintains that her statements on the form were constitutionally inadmissible because a written, rather than oral, warning does not satisfy Miranda requirements. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1612 (1966). The district court accepted, for purposes of its analysis, that Jedlicka was in custody when she filled out the form. Because it is not specifically contested on review, we proceed on the same assumption. Nonetheless, we find an analysis of the Miranda issue unnecessary because the same evidence was presented through the oral testimony of the police officers. Jedlicka told the officer that (1) she had leaned down to adjust her radio; (2) when she looked up and saw the motorist by his car; (3) she was on her way home from St. Cloud; and (4) before leaving St. Cloud she had eaten at Taco Bell. Jedlicka neither moved to suppress those statements nor objected to them during the jury trial. Her First Party Statement merely repeated this information. The officers' testimony at trial provided an independent basis for all of the information contained in the First Party Statement, making it cumulative rather than prejudicial. The jury's verdict on the careless driving charge was unattributable to the statement, and any error in its admissibility is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.


Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if, given the facts in the record and legitimate inferences drawn from those facts, a jury could reasonably conclude the defendant committed the crimes charged. State v. Wilson, 535 N.W.2d 597, 605 (Minn. 1995). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and assume the jury believed the witnesses whose testimony supported the verdict and disbelieved contradictory evidence. State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978).

Careless driving is defined as

operat[ing] or halt[ing] any vehicle upon any street or highway carelessly or heedlessly in disregard of the rights of others, or a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person * * *.

Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (1996). Jedlicka does not dispute that she was driving the car. Undeniably the driving conduct endangered the motorist and the car he had been driving. Jedlicka's challenge is directed at whether the driving conduct itself was careless.

The undisputed evidence showed that Jedlicka (1) was driving a vehicle after consuming three alcoholic drinks (the first containing blended whiskey and the second and third containing gin); (2) diverted her attention from the roadway to look down at her radio controls; (3) did not keep a sufficient lookout to observe the disabled vehicle ahead of her; and (4) struck the vehicle and the motorist at a point two and one-half feet off the fog line of the roadway. The state produced sufficient evidence for the jury to convict Jedlicka of careless driving. See In re Welfare of M.B.W., 364 N.W.2d 491, 493 (Minn. App. 1985) (finding sufficient evidence of careless driving when driver did not have clear view because of inattention or fogged-over windshield); State v. Johnson, 358 N.W.2d 127, 129 (Minn. App. 1984) (finding sufficient evidence of careless driving when driver swerved at person while attempting to turn up radio).


Jedlicka raised several other issues in her brief, including prosecutorial misconduct, double jeopardy, and the court's failure to allow questioning on comparative negligence. At oral argument Jedlicka withdrew the issues relating to prosecutorial misconduct and double jeopardy because these issues had not been properly preserved for review. The issues also fail on the merits. See State v. Ashby, 567 N.W.2d 21, 27 (Minn. 1997) (underscoring significance of district court's evaluation of conduct and assessment of need for new trial); State v. McDonald, 298 Minn. 449, 455, 215 N.W.2d 607, 610-11 (1974) (rejecting double-jeopardy argument on analogous facts).

The district court's rejection of a proposed instruction on comparative fault is also supported by the law. See State v. Meany, 262 Minn. 491, 505-06, 115 N.W.2d 247, 257 (1962) (jury discussion of comparative negligence not appropriate to determine whether driving was reckless). The district judge read the jury the careless-driving instruction from the criminal jury instruction guide. The instructions in the jury instruction guide are presumptively valid. See State v. Jones, 556 N.W.2d 903, 915 (Minn. 1996) (Tomljanovich, J., concurring specially) (the guide assists "in fashioning instructions that are a correct statement of the law"); State v. Pilcher, 472 N.W.2d 327, 337 (Minn. 1991) (recommending use of the guide for direction on instructions). For the same reasons that a jury instruction on comparative negligence would be an incorrect statement of the law, objections to questions relating to comparative negligence were properly sustained. See Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (defining elements of misdemeanor careless driving).


[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 2.

[1] Neither party raised the issue of whether the form was a part of the accident report and therefore inadmissible under Minn. Stat. § 169.09, subd. 13(b) (Supp. 1997). Our review of the form, which states "Medina Police Department" at its top, indicates it is not a part of the accident report. See Minn. Stat. § 169.09, subd. 9 (1996) (accident report is a form provided by the Department of Public Safety).