Appeals court upholds sentence in DWI case

From staff reports

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the prison sentence of a Rochester man sentenced in March to three years in prison after pleading guilty to his 18th alcohol-related driving offense.

Arthur Thomas Hanf was convicted of refusal to take an alcohol breath test, a charge that stemmed from a traffic stop in October 2003 in southeast Rochester. He was charged with felony DWI under a state law that went into effect in August 2002. That law carries stiffer penalties, including the possibility of prison time, for offenders caught driving drunk four or more times within a 10-year period.

The presumptive sentence for his offense was a stayed prison term of 36 months and probation. However, an Olmsted District Court judge believed Hanf was not amenable to probation and ordered him to serve prison time because of his failures in chemical-dependency treatment, three prior DWI convictions within 10 years and the threat he posed to public safety.

Hanf filed an appeal, arguing the upward departure at sentencing, which was based on judicial findings, violated his right to a jury trial. The court of appeals, in an opinion released Tuesday, ruled the upward departure did not violate Hanf's right to a trial by jury.

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