The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Helgeson (Decided January 30, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the Court of Appeals does not understand their own standard for a what constitutes a "seizure".
In Helgeson, at approximately 3:00 a.m. on March 8, 2015 a Stearns County Deputy Sheriff observed a vehicle with two occupants idling in a St. Cloud apartment complex's parking lot. The vehicle had its headlights on and was parked about five feet off of the roadway. The officer ran the license plates and discovered the vehicle was registered to an address in Sauk Centre. The officer parked his squad vehicle behind the vehicle but did not activate his emergency lights. The officer then approached the vehicle with his flashlight on and identified the driver as the appellant, Arron Helgeson. The officer subsequently determined the appellant was drunk and placed him under arrest for DWI.
The appellant moved in the district court to suppress all the evidence arguing that the officer seized him without a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. The district court denied the motion to suppress and on appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, stating:
"Appellant argues that the investigating officer's actions constitute a seizure because the officer 'boxed [his] car in with a marked squad car.' The officer testified that there was room for appellant to back around the officer's squad vehicle. The district court reviewed the investigating officer's testimony, along with squad video from the night of the incident and the assisting officer's report, and determined that appellant was 'not seized when the [investigating officer] initially approached him,' because the officer parked behind appellant's vehicle 'without his emergency lights on and parked ... so that [appellant] could have backed around [the squad vehicle] in order to leave.'
"We agree with the district court. In Minnesota, a seizure occurs when "a reasonable person in the defendant's shoes would have concluded that he or she was not free to leave," given the totality of the circumstances. In re Welfare of E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 783 (Minn. 1993). Not every interaction between a police officer and a citizen amounts to a seizure. State v. Klamar, 823 N.W.2d 687, 692 (Minn. App. 2012). "Courts generally have held that it does not by itself constitute a seizure for an officer to simply walk up and talk ... to a driver sitting in an already stopped car." Id. (quotation omitted); see, e.g., Mi, 873 N.W.2d at 152. Here, the evidentiary record, including the squad video, supports the district court's finding that the investigating officer pulled up behind appellant's already-parked vehicle but did not position his squad vehicle in such a way as to completely block appellant's exit. Further, the officer did not use any physical force or make an express show of authority toward appellant. Cf State v. Cripps, 533 N.W.2d 388, 391 (Minn. 1995) (noting that an officer's use of physical force or show of authority may constitute a seizure)."
"Because a seizure generally does not occur "when an officer merely walks up to and speaks with a driver sitting in an already-stopped vehicle," ////, 873 N.W.2d at 152, and because the investigating officer did not block appellant's exit or otherwise exert force or authority against him, Cripps, 533 N.W.2d at 391, we conclude that the officer's conduct did not constitute a seizure."
The problem with the Court of Appeals' decision is that it ignores its own standard regarding what constitutes a seizure, to wit: "A seizure occurs when "a reasonable person in the defendant's shoes would have concluded that he or she was not free to leave." So who in their right mind would feel that they are free to leave when a police officer, in a marked squad, parks behind you and then approaches with his flashlight on? Answer: No one. The Court of Appeals got this one wrong.
MORAL OF THE STORY: If a police officer parks behind your vehicle but does not turn on his emergency lights, leave immediately.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DUI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.