Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Minnesota DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Oman (Decided February 11, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you are going to drive drunk, you had better take your time.

Mr. Oman was observed rapidly accelerating from a stop sign by a Hermantown police officer.  The officer initiated a traffic stop of Mr. Oman's pickup and things went rapidly downhill from there.  While Oman was speaking, the officer noticed a strong smell of alcohol and observed that Oman’s eyes were glossy and bloodshot. Oman admitted to drinking three beers before driving. The officer then requested that Oman perform field sobriety tests, which Oman agreed to do. But Oman failed the field sobriety tests and his preliminary breath test.  Mr. Oman was placed under arrest and at the police station, he tested at a .16% BAC.

The Defendant moved to suppress all of the evidence arguing that the initial stop was illegal. The district court denied Oman’s motion on the ground that the officer was acting upon his professional determination that Oman accelerated too fast in violation of a Proctor city ordinance.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court noting that the Proctor City Ordinance states:

"No person shall turn, accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise operate a motor vehicle on any public or private roadway within the City in a manner which causes unnecessary engine noise or backfire, squealing tires, skidding, sliding, swaying, throwing of sand or gravel, or in a manner simulating a race, impeding traffic, or with an unnecessary exhibition of speed. (Emphasis the court's)

The Court of Appeals then found:

"Multiple facts in the record support the district court’s finding. The officer testified that he observed Oman’s vehicle stop at a stop sign, then “accelerate very fast” down the street. When Oman’s vehicle left the stop sign, the officer heard the loud acceleration of the motor, which he testified seemed excessive. By the time the officer turned the comer to follow, Oman’s vehicle was near the end of the block. The video from the dashboard camera mounted in the patrol car confirms the officer’s testimony. It shows Oman’s vehicle far ahead of the squad car by the time the officer made a turn. And while the patrol car caught up to Oman’s vehicle, the dashboard-camera video recorded that the patrol car had to move at a speed of 41 miles per hour to do so....The dashboard-camera video explicitly shows Oman accelerating away from the stop sign at a fast speed."

"...Oman’s analogy to Bender is misplaced. In Bender, this court determined that the officer did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion for instigating the investigatory stop because the officer did not suspect the driver of being under the influence or committing any other traffic offenses. Bender, 381 N.W.2d at 897. Instead, the officer testified that the basis for the stop was that the driver’s car was making excessive noise. Id. at 898. And the officer never testified that the noise level would have constituted a traffic violation. Id. Unlike Bender, the testimony here shows that the officer reasonably suspected Oman of violating the Proctor city code provision prohibiting unreasonable acceleration."

Moral Of The Story: Haste makes waste!

If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Minneapolis DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Berzins (Decided January 28, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you are arrested for a DWI, the police have free reign to search your car.  

In Berzins, Glencoe Police Officer Andrew Fiebelkom began following appellant’s SUV and watched it cross over the center line. After seeing the traffic violation, Officer Fiebelkom stopped the SUV and approached it on the driver’s side. Before Officer Fiebelkom could identify himself, the SUV driver asked why he had been stopped. Officer Fiebelkom explained that he stopped the SUV because it had gone over the center line.

While speaking with appellant, Officer Fiebelkom noticed that appellant was “on the nod,” which the officer testified to mean that appellant was falling asleep while talking to him. Officer Fiebelkom also observed that appellant had “droopy eyelids” and scabs on his arms and hands. Based on his experience working as a police officer and on the appearance and location of the scabs, Officer Fiebelkom identified such scabs as indicative of hypodermic-needle use.

Berzins was asked to get out of his vehicle and perform field sobriety tests.  He was subsequently placed under arrest for DWI and based on his interaction with appellant, Officer Fiebelkom believed that evidence of drug use would be found inside the SUV. He decided to search it. Officer Fiebelkom began his search with the driver’s-side and center-console areas. In those areas, he found hypodermic needles, one of which appeared to have methamphetamine inside it. In the back seat on the driver’s side of the car, Officer Fiebelkom found a lunch pail containing needles, spoons, a scale, and a pill grinder containing a crystal-like substance that Officer Fiebelkom believed was methamphetamine. In the area where one of the passengers had been sitting, Officer Fiebelkom found another hypodermic needle and a small plastic bag containing approximately two grams of a crystal-like substance. Both the needle and the bag contained methamphetamine.

Appellant moved to suppress the drug evidence obtained from the search of his SUV. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress. Appellant stipulated to the state’s case to obtain appellate review of the district court’s pretrial mling under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found appellant guilty of felony fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor fourth-degree controlled-substance DWI. Appellant was sentenced to 21 months in prison for the fifth-degree possession offense, and 90 days in jail for the DWI offense.

On appeal, Mr. Berzins argued the search was not justified under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement under Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009).  Alas, the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed noting:

"A search incident to a lawful arrest is a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment. Gant, 556 U.S. at 338, 129 S. Ct. at 1716. Under this exception, and incident to a lawful arrest, police may make a contemporaneous search of a vehicle if a defendant has access to the area or if there is reason to believe that evidence of the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle. Id. at 343, 129 S. Ct. at 1719."
***
"Appellant argues that the search of his SUV was not valid under Gant because it was unreasonable for the officer to believe that evidence of driving while impaired would be in appellant’s SUV. Appellant asserts that “[t]he crime of DWI focuses upon evidence obtained from the driver, not other physical evidence, because it is the driver’s state of intoxication that is prohibited.” He claims that, because he was arrested “solely for the crime of DWI,” the officer already had the necessary evidence of the crime of arrest."

"The district court determined that it was reasonable for Officer Fiebelkom to believe that drug-use evidence might be found in appellant’s SUV based on appellant’s droopy eyelids, nodding off, puncture marks with scabs on his arms and hands, and appellant’s having failed two field-sobriety tests. The district court concluded that the warrantless search of appellant’s SUV was valid under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement."

The Court of Appeals then states:

"Here, after Offficer Fiebelkom arrested appellant for a controlled-substance DWI, the officer formed a reasonable belief that drugs—evidence of the crime of arrest—would be found in appellant’s SUV. Officer Fiebelkom’s observation of multiple signs of dmg use reasonably led the officer to believe, based on his training and experience, that “controlled substances are usually inside the vehicle along with the driver.”

Sorry, but I have to agree with the defense on this one.  Using the logic of the district court and court of appeals, every time a drunk is stopped while driving a motor vehicle, the police now have probable cause to search the vehicle for the offending liquor, beer or wine bottle(s)?. 

While drugs often accompany the addict, the constitution requires more than just a generalized suspicion of criminal activity to justify a search.  The Appellant's arms were not bleeding and there was nothing about the police encounter which gave the officer a reasonable (versus speculative) belief that the automobile contained drugs.

Moral Of The Story:  Seek and ye shall find especially if you have a badge.



If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Wolden which stands for the proposition that the police can enter your home without a warrant if they reasonably believe "emergency aid" is required for an occupant.  

In Wolden, the State of Minnesota charged appellant Shane Michael Wolden with criminal vehicular operation: causing great bodily harm while under the influence of alcohol.  On December 10, 2016, several police officers responded to a motor-vehicle accident at 5900 Westbrook Road in Golden Valley. Upon arrival, the officers observed a vehicle with extensive damage. Photographs of the accident scene showed that the windshield of the vehicle was shattered and contained a large hole on the driver’s side. Those photographs also showed debris strewn around the front end of the vehicle, one of the vehicle’s wheels on the ground across the street from the vehicle, a light pole sheared off from its base, the detached lamp from that light pole, and a downed street sign. Blood was visible on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides of the vehicle, including on top of the vehicle’s sunroof. Sergeant Buffie testified that the caller who reported the accident was at the scene and told the officers that the occupants of the vehicle “had left on foot.” The officers determined that Wolden was a registered owner of the vehicle.

Officers were informed that there was a man with a severe head injury in front of a different caller’s residence. Officers responded to that residence and spoke to the man, who was identified as C.T. C.T. had been a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident. C.T. had severe injuries. Sergeant Buffie testified that C.T.’s “eye was bulging out of his head really bad, filled with blood,” that he had “numerous lacerations on his head and was actively bleeding with blood running down his face,” and that he “looked horrific.”

Police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at a residence at 5630 Kentley Avenue, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers went to that address and found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Officers elected not to set up a perimeter around the residence. Instead, officers entered the residence and announced their presence. Sergeant Buffie testified that he entered the residence because he believed that the driver of the vehicle, Wolden, was potentially in worse condition than C.T. and could have been severely injured.

Officers went to the basement and saw Wolden lying on a bed, under the covers. Officers observed that Wolden’s breathing and heartbeat were rapid. While Wolden was talking to the officers, they detected a strong odor of alcohol and noticed that his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Wolden told officers a second time that he did not need an ambulance. Law enforcement administered field sobriety tests, and Wolden performed poorly on the tests.  Wooden subsequently tested a .19 BAC on the Data Master Machine.

Wooden moved to suppress the evidence of his test result, etc. arguing that the police entry into his home was made without his consent or exigent circumstances to justify the entry.  The District Court disagreed finding that the "emergency aid" exception to the warrant requirement justified the entry.  On Appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, stating:

"It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 1380 (1980) (quotation omitted). “Nevertheless, the warrant requirement is subject to certain limited exceptions, and law enforcement officers . . . ‘may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.’” State v. Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d 783, 787-88 (Minn. 2007) ."

"The Minnesota Supreme Court uses a two-part test to determine whether a search was reasonable under the emergency-aid exception. Ries, 2018 WL 6332362, at *9 (citing Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). First, the police must have “reasonable grounds to believe that there is an emergency at hand and an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life or property.” Id. (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). And second, “[tjhere must be some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). “Under the emergency-aid exception, it does not matter if officers have reason to believe some criminal activity is afoot as long as they are objectively motivated by the need to give aid.” Id. (citing Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 404, 126 S. Ct. at 1948)."

"...the district court found that the vehicle “had extensive damage in multiple areas” and that “there was blood visible on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side of the vehicle.” This finding is unchallenged, and the photographs of the vehicle and accident scene support it. The district court also found that when officers encountered C.T. he had “severe injuries including numerous lacerations, and blood running down his face and head.” That finding is supported by the record, particularly, Sergeant Buffie’s testimony regarding C.T.’s “horrific” appearance. The totality of these circumstances provided the officers objectively reasonable grounds to suspect that Wolden might be seriously injured and need immediate aid."

***
"We turn to the second part of the emergency-aid test: whether there was some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched.  Here, police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at the residence to be searched, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Based on the information from police dispatch connecting Wolden to the residence, the proximity of the residence and accident scene, and the discovery of a key fob, outside of the garage of the residence, for a vehicle with the same make and model as the accident vehicle, there was a reasonable basis approximating probable cause to believe Wolden was at the residence and to associate the emergency with the residence."

Moral Of The Story:  You can run but you cannot hide!



If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Green (Decided January 14, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that if you choose to represent yourself, you have a fool for a client.

In Green, the Defendant was found unconscious behind the wheel of a car with two open beer cans in the front-seat cup holders. He was drunk. Facing one count of first-degree driving while impaired and one count of first-degree driving while impaired—test refusal, Green moved to dismiss the charges for lack of probable cause. The district court denied the motion, and Green fired his public defender. Green moved the district court to order Anoka County to pay for services to assist with his self-representation, including an investigator, a paralegal, office supplies, and law-library fees. The district court denied the motion.  

On appeal, the Court affirmed the district court noting:

"The statute does not expressly authorize self-represented indigent defendants to apply for investigative services. It provides, “Counsel appointed by the court for an indigent defendant, or representing a[n indigent] defendant . . . may file an ex parte application requesting investigative, expert, or other services necessary to an adequate defense in the case.” Minn. Stat. § 611.21 (emphasis added). The section is one part of a broader statutory scheme that provides for a defendant’s right to a public defender. See Minn. Stat. §§ 611.14-.273 (2018). We previously observed that section “611.21 provides a ‘safety valve’ of court-ordered funding for [services other than counsel] when public defender budgets are depleted.” See In re Wilson, 509N.W.2d568, 571 (Minn. App. 1993). It is not apparent that the statute authorizes anyone other than appointed counsel to apply for services. Neither party addresses this general-application issue, however, and we can decide Green’s appeal on its specific necessary-to-an-adequate-defense grounds. Green contends that the district court should have found that the requested services were necessary for his defense. The contention fails."

"Green sought investigative services to learn more about the ignition-interlock system and police-officer training for an additional omnibus hearing and trial. The information is unnecessary for an omnibus hearing, because the district court already rejected Green’s argument that the temporary inoperability of his car due to the ignition- interlock device defeated the charge. See State v. Starfield, 481 N.W.2d 834, 838-39 (Minn. 1992) (concluding that whether temporary inoperability of a car precludes a defendant from being in “physical control” of a vehicle is a fact question for the jury). To the extent Green’s defense at trial might rely on the alleged inoperability of the car by virtue of the ignition-interlock device, Jeeninga’s testimony would satisfy the objective, and Green can secure his testimony by subpoena. Green failed to show how the requested investigative services are necessary for an adequate defense."

"Green also sought a paralegal to help him with legal research. But lawyers conduct legal research, and Green rejected the legal services of the public defender’s office.  By discharging the public defender, Green rejected taxpayer-funded legal assistance, which included the legal research his counsel would have provided and any related paralegal assistance."

Moral Of The Story:  Sometimes the best advice is free!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Minnesota DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Fernandez, (Decided January 7, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that it does not take much to allow the police to expand a traffic stop to investigate intoxication for a DWI arrest.

In Fernandez, Officer William Hullopeter stopped a vehicle when he discovered that the registered owner, a 48-year-old woman, had a cancelled driver’s license. As he exited his squad car and approached the vehicle, Officer Hullopeter observed that the driver, who was not a female, had bloodshot, watery eyes, and that his breath had a “strong minty odor” emanating from the gum he was chewing. Officer Hullopeter also observed “beer cans directly behind the driver’s seat,” and that the driver was wearing two paper wristbands that are the type commonly issued at events where alcohol is served. Officer Hullopeter identified the driver as appellant Christian Fernandez and asked him to perform several field sobriety tests, the results of which indicated impairment. The officer arrested Fernandez, transported him to the Blue Earth County Jail, and read him the Implied Consent Advisory. Fernandez agreed to provide a breath test, which revealed an alcohol concentration of 0.10.

Fernandez moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the stop, arguing that the stop was unlawfully expanded because Officer Hullopeter should not have further approached the driver as soon as he shined his spotlight into the vehicle and determined that the driver was not a female and therefore was not the registered owner of the vehicle with the canceled driver’s license. 

The district court found that “the officer’s suspicions about the identity of the driver were not dispelled until he exited the squad vehicle and approached [Fernandez’s] vehicle.” The court also found that when Officer Hullopeter “approached the vehicle and spoke with [Fernandez], he immediately” observed signs that Fernandez had been drinking, and that “these new observations were made at the same time that Hullopeter determined that the driver was not the registered owner.” 

The district court's findings of fact meant that the Defendant had no hope for winning on appeal. Or, as noted by the Appellate Court:

"Fernandez acknowledges that under Pike, the initial stop of the vehicle was valid because the vehicle was registered to an owner with an expired driver’s license. But Fernandez argues that because “Officer Hullopeter’s reasonable suspicion of criminal activity was based entirely upon his assumption that the registered owner... was the person driving the vehicle,” the reasonable suspicion justifying the stop was dispelled as soon as the officer “shined his squad spotlight on the car” and recognized that Fernandez was not a middle-aged woman. Fernandez argues that because Officer Hullopeter observed that the driver of the vehicle was not a middle-aged woman, his detention of Fernandez for the purpose of asking to see his driver’s license was unconstitutional."
***
"Officer Hullopeter’s suspicions that criminal activity was afoot were not dispelled until he “was in close proximity to the vehicle,” close enough to observe that the registered owner of the vehicle was not the driver, but also close enough to “immediately” observe that the driver had “bloodshot, watery eyes,” and “‘minty’ breath.” (Emphasis added.). Officer Hullopeter also observed “alcoholic beverage containers in plain view in the vehicle,” and that Fernandez was wearing wristbands of the type worn by “younger people at events or locations where alcohol is served.” These new observations occurred prior to Officer Hullopeter asking for Fernandez’s driver’s license and provided him with reasonable suspicion that Fernandez was driving under the influence of alcohok See State v. Klamar, 823 N.W.2d 687, 696 (Minn. App. 2012) (concluding that an officer’s observation of the odor of alcohol and bloodshot and watery eyes justified the expansion of a traffic stop to investigate a suspicion of impaired driving)."

Moral Of The Story:  If you have been drinking do not drive someone else's car as they may not be as responsible as you.



If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Sawyer v. Commissioner of Public Safety (Decided December 17, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished), which stands for the proposition that "speeding" is sufficient violation of the traffic laws to justify a stop by the police.  Well, duh.  Sometimes, I wonder why people even bother to appeal such stupid questions.  Oh well...

In Sawyer, a state trooper arrested appellant Kurt William Sawyer for driving while impaired. Appellant later failed a breath test for alcohol, and his driver’s license was revoked. He challenged the license revocation, asserting that there was no basis for “the initial stop or intrusion,” and therefore he was impermissibly seized.  

The trooper testified that she was stopped at the intersection of two highways, 87 and 371, and noticed a pickup leave an establishment that sells alcohol. The pickup turned west on 87. The trooper made a U-turn and followed the pickup. The speed limit on that road goes from 40 to 30 miles per hour heading into the City of Backus. The trooper testified that the pickup was initially driving within the speed limit, but it did not slow down when it hit the 30 mile-per-hour zone; rather, according to the trooper’s radar the pickup increased its speed to 43 miles per hour. The trooper pursued the pickup. The pickup quickly turned south onto a side street, and the trooper followed. The trooper believed that the pickup was speeding up and attempting to evade. When the trooper hit gravel on the side street, she activated her lights. She followed the vehicle up a driveway and saw it pull into a garage. Appellant got out of the pickup, the trooper and appellant made eye contact, and the garage door closed. The trooper opened a service door to the garage, flipped a light switch, and yelled for appellant to come out. She then walked away from the garage and called for backup. Appellant walked out of the garage and ignored the trooper as if she was not there. The trooper ordered appellant to come to the squad car, and appellant then complied.

The district court filed an order sustaining the revocation of appellant’s driving privileges. The court concluded that there was a valid basis for the stop because the trooper observed appellant going 43 in a 30 mile-per-hour zone and seized appellant for that reason.  

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, noting:

"Here, the district court found that the trooper observed appellant speeding and temporarily seized appellant for that reason. The record supports these findings. The trooper had a reasonable, articulable basis to temporarily seize appellant. “Generally, if an officer observes a violation of a traffic law, no matter how insignificant the traffic law, that observation forms the requisite particularized and objective basis for conducting a traffic stop.” Wilkes v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 111 N.W.2d 239, 243 (Minn. App. 2010) (quotation omitted)."

Moral Of The Story:  Slow down and smell the roses!

If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Poehler (Decided December 10, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition that a mere crack in a windshield is not sufficient to justify a stop of a motor vehicle.

In Pohler, a Cambridge police officer saw a car being driven with a cracked windshield.  The officer stopped the car and spoke with the driver, James Poehler.  Mr. Pohler was slurring his words and a preliminary breath test indicated a breath alcohol level of .174%.  Mr. Pohler was charged with a DWI.

The defense moved to suppress all of the evidence contending that the officer stopped him without reasonable suspicion.  The district court denied the motion and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court, stating:

"Poehler’s argument requires us to answer whether an officer’s seeing any windshield crack—regardless of its extent—constitutes a reasonable basis for the officer to suspect that the driver is violating the obstructed-vision statute, Minnesota Statutes, section 169.71, subdivision 1(a)(1) (2018). That statute prohibits a person from driving a “motor vehicle with ... a windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision.” The question of whether a stop can rest on the appearance of a crack alone, regardless of the extent of the crack, is one of first impression. Other cases have involved stops resting on an extensively cracked windshield or on cracks of undescribed extent where the validity of the stop was not challenged or decided on appeal. For example, in State v. Varnado, the supreme court considered the appeal of a defendant whom officers stopped after they “observed a car with a shattered windshield,” 582 N.W.2d 886, 888 (Minn. 1998), but “that stop [was] not being contested.” Id. at 893 (Gilbert, J., dissenting). This court later considered a stop involving a police officer who had “pulled the pickup over, believing that he saw a windshield severely cracked and, thus, obstructing the driver’s view,” and there we held that “the stop itself was proper.” State v. Miller, 659 N. W.2d 275, 277-78 (Minn. App. 2003); see also State v. Tomaino, 627 N.W.2d 338, 340 (Minn. App. 2001) (“The parties agree that the cracked windshield provided a legal basis for the investigatory stop.”). This is the first case where we are asked whether every windshield crack of any extent justifies a police stop under the obstracted-vision statute. Our answer is no."

"The statute’s qualifier, “to an extent to,” informs us that not every cracked windshield constitutes a violation. A person violates the statute only by driving with a windshield crack that, because of its characteristics, such as its location and its size, severity, or shape, limits or obstructs the driver’s vision."

***
"The district court justified the stop on an unsupported ground"

Moral Of The Story:  Sometimes a stop is not all it is cracked up to be!



If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.