The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Galler (Decided February 13, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police cannot justify a vehicle stop based upon evidence found after the stop was made. Well, duh! I am just shocked that the district court was unaware of the concept!
In Galler, the defendant was arrested for underage drinking and driving and a suppression hearing was held to challenge the police officer's stop of his vehicle. At the hearing, the arresting officer testified that he caught up to appellant's vehicle by traveling on side roads, and that he had been behind appellant for less than one block when he saw the backseat-driver-side passenger open the door of the moving vehicle and jump out. He testified that the passenger ran eight to ten feet before turning around, running back to the vehicle, and getting back inside. The officer testified that the passenger was outside of appellant's vehicle for a few seconds, and that once the passenger got back in the vehicle, the vehicle started moving again. The officer was less than one car length behind appellant's vehicle when he observed the passenger's conduct, and he initially testified that he activated his emergency lights after the passenger got back in the vehicle.
On cross-examination, the officer was shown a portion of Exhibit 1, his squad video from the traffic stop of appellant's vehicle. The officer acknowledged that the squad video shows that he flashed his emergency lights before the backseat passenger exited appellant's vehicle. (Darn pesky video!).
The District Court upheld the traffic stop because it concluded that the passenger could have been fleeing law enforcement when he exited the vehicle, and that the officer's observation of the passenger's conduct provided reasonable articulable suspicion to justify the stop.
On appeal, Minnesota Court of Appeals thankfully reversed the district court, noting:
"A seizure occurs when a reasonable person, in light of all of the surrounding circumstances, would not feel free to leave. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d at 362; E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d at 781. An officer cannot use information or observations that occurred after a suspect was seized to justify a seizure. Diede, 795 N.W.2d at 842. A suspect is seized when he is ordered to stop, not when he submits to the order. E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d at 783. 'Under certain circumstances, an officer's flashing red lights can be a significant factor in determining whether a seizure has occurred.' State v. Bergerson, 659 N.W.2d 791, 795 (Minn. App. 2003). This is particularly true when the squad vehicle is positioned in a way as to communicate that the suspect vehicle is the target of the seizure. See id. at 795-96 (concluding that the appellant was seized when the officer activated his emergency lights and the appellant's vehicle was directly in front of the officer's squad vehicle); see also State v. Lopez, 698 N.W.2d 18, 22 (Minn. App. 2005) (concluding that the appellant was seized when the officer activated his emergency lights and partially blocked the forward movement of her vehicle)."
"Based on the officer's testimony and the squad video, the officer did not observe or consider the passenger's conduct prior to activating his emergency lights and seizing appellant. Aside from the unsupported allegation that appellant was speeding, the officer did not point to any other suspicious activity that occurred before the seizure that would have supported a traffic stop. Therefore, the district court erred when it allowed the passenger's conduct to be used to retroactively justify the traffic stop. Diede, 795 N.W.2d at 842. Because appellant was seized before the passenger exited the vehicle, whether or not his conduct was suspicious or indicative of criminal activity is not relevant to this analysis and appellant's motion to suppress should have been granted."
Moral Of The Story: The ends don't justify the means!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.