Monday, May 21, 2012

Minnesota DWI Lawyer Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case of the week is the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision of State v. Bosaaen, (Unpublished, decided May 21, 2012) which stands for the proposition that you should not go poaching if you are already pickled!

In Bosaaen,  the defendant complained that the district court was wrong when it failed to rule that the initial stop of his vehicle was illegal.  The case is interesting as it discusses the proper standard for vehicle stops based upon an informant's tip.

In the present case,  a Mr. "L.K." was driving on a country road in Dakota County when he encountered the defendant in a red Ford F-150 stopped by the side of the road along with two other vehicles.  Thinking that the parties were having vehicle trouble, "L.K." stopped and offered his assistance.  One of the individuals at the scene asked "L.K." if he was, "headed to go hunting".  "L.K." responded that he was not, "because there was no season open right now".  The other man then stated that they were after big venison and that "they had just seen some."

"L.K." called 911 and reported his belief that the men were hunting out-of-season.  "L.K." remained in the area and when the vehicles, including the defendant's, left the area, "L.K."reported their movements to the police.  The police were able to locate the defendant's Ford F-150 and made a vehicle stop to investigate the possible poaching complaint.  Unfortunately for Mr. Bosaaen, he was drunk when he was stopped by the police and was then arrested for DWI.

On appeal, Mr. Bosaaen claimed that the informant's information was insufficient to justify the stop of his vehicle and since the police did not independently observe any driving misconduct, the stop was illegal and all the evidence of intoxication must, therefore, be suppressed.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed with the defendant holding:
A police officer is permitted to make a limited investigative stop if the officer has “a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the suspect might be engaged in criminal activity". The reasonable suspicion standard can be met based on information provided by a reliable informant. But information given by an informant must bear indicia of reliability that make the alleged criminal conduct sufficiently likely to justify an investigatory stop by police.  Citizen informants are presumed to be reliable. 

Minnesota cases dealing with investigatory stops based on informant tips have focused on two factors when evaluating the reliability of the tip: (1) identifying information given by the informant, and (2) objective facts supporting the informant’s assertion that the suspect is engaging in criminal activity. Neither of these factors is dispositive, and ultimately the basis for an investigatory stop must be analyzed in light of the totality of the circumstances.

Here, L.K. adequately identified himself, and the Court, therefore, presumes the reliability of L.K.’s tip.   L.K. provided specific facts about his conversation with the occupants and  under the totality of the circumstances, these statements provided a reasonable basis for the police to suspect that the men were hunting deer out of season. The district court did not err in concluding that when appellant was stopped, the police had a reasonable articulable suspicion that appellant might be engaged in criminal activity