The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed the conviction of a former Supreme Court candidate who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, saying state law doesn’t require an officer to bring a suspected impaired driver to a judge before completing required chemical tests.
Michelle MacDonald Shimota was arrested in April 2013 after an officer in Rosemount said he saw her speeding and swerving. She refused to get out of her vehicle and had to be pried out by officers, and once she got to the station, she refused to take a breath test and demanded to see a judge, according to court records.
A jury ultimately convicted her of obstructing justice and refusing a chemical test, but she was acquitted of drunken driving.
Shimota argued on appeal that the officer violated the law by failing to bring her to a judge immediately, as she demanded.
The Appeals Court found that an arrestee’s statutory right to be taken immediately before a judge after an arrest “is not a mechanism for suspected drunk drivers to circumvent an officer’s statutory duty to promptly administer a chemical test.”
The judge said that under Shimota’s argument, every person arrested for a violation related to operating a motor vehicle would have to be taken to a judge right away. Since the officer must administer a test within two hours of the alleged impaired driving, Shimota’s interpretation of “immediately” would mean that an officer would never complete his required duties to administer chemical tests.
“We therefore cannot agree with Shimota that the legislature intended that officers take drunk drivers straight to a judge, interrupting or preventing the administrative duties that must be completed before the arrest process ends,” the judges wrote.
A message left for Shimota wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday.
Shimota ran for Supreme Court justice in 2014 and lost to Justice David Lillehaug. She had the Republican Party nomination, but party leaders backed away after learning of her traffic stop.
The Appeals Court also found Tuesday that Shimota had no right to videotape her trial, as she requested.