The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Torfin v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided November 20, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that it does not take much for the police to turn a speeding ticket into a DWI Arrest.
In Torfin, the Petitioner accelerated quickly from a stop sign and was subsequently stopped by a Victoria Minnesota Police officer after the officer clocked the Petitioner going 57 mph in a 45 miles per hour zone. After stopping the vehicle, the officer approached the car and asked the Petitioner for his license and insurance. The Petitioner was cooperative throughout the process.
The officer could smell the odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle. The Petitioner "admitted to having a couple of beers." Petitioner looked straight ahead and did not maintain eye contact with the officer as the two conversed. The officer moved closer to the car and "took a . . . deep breath from inside the vehicle and detected ... the odor of consumed alcohol." Petitioner again admitted to consuming alcohol before driving that night, and refused to take a preliminary breath test because he did not want to "find himself in trouble."
The officer had Petitioner step from the car to perform four field sobriety tests. Appellant's performance on the tests suggested impairment. The officer then arrested appellant for driving while impaired. A later breath test, not challenged on appeal, revealed excessive alcohol in appellant's system, and his driving privileges were revoked.
The Petitioner filed a challenge to the license revocation arguing that the officer did not have a sufficient basis to expand the stop from the speeding ticket to the performance of field sobriety tests. The District disagreed and upheld the license revocation and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed with the district court noting:
"A traffic stop initially supported by reasonable suspicion may be expanded, so long as the expansion is "strictly tied to and justified by the circumstances which rendered the initiation of the stop permissible." State v. Asherooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 364 (Minn. 2004) (quotations omitted). Justification comes from "(1) the original legitimate purpose of the stop, (2) independent probable cause, or (3) reasonableness, as defined in Terry v. Ohio." State v. Smith, 814 N.W.2d 346, 350 (Minn. 2012) (discussing the scope of a traffic stop under Minn. Const, art. I, § 10). Reasonable suspicion for the expanded stop must be based on "specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion."
"Minnesota courts have articulated several bases on which an officer may permissibly expand the scope of a traffic stop to investigate a driver's possible intoxication. Some indicators of intoxication include the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy eyes, and poor balance."
"We apply the rule of law identified in State v. Wiegand to the evidence here, that is:
"the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution to limit the scope of a Terry investigation to that which occasioned the stop, . . . and to the investigation of only those additional offenses for which the officer develops a reasonable, articulable suspicion within the time necessary to resolve the originally-suspected offense."
"Here, the officer initially stopped appellant's car for speeding but, given the hour and the driver's aggressive acceleration, the officer suspected from the outset that this might be a drunk driver. Upon approaching the car, the officer could smell consumed alcohol, appellant admitted to drinking alcohol before driving, and appellant stared straight ahead while the two talked. The officer expanded the stop to determine whether the driver was impaired only after having developed a reasonable suspicion of impairment. The officer expanded the stop based on a number of factors including driving conduct, odor of alcohol, admitted consumption of alcohol, and appellant's somewhat unusual behavior in avoiding eye contact. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the evidence in the record supports the district court's determination that the officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion of impaired driving when he expanded the traffic stop to include field sobriety tests."
MORAL OF THE STORY: If you are going to drink and drive you should abide by the remaning traffic laws!