Monday, January 26, 2015

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Berry, (decided January 26, 2015, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that when it comes to vehicle stops, the police may intrude upon your right to be left alone if they are half-assed certain that something is amiss. Argh!!!

In Berry, a White Bear Lake police officer heard loud noises and revving engines, coming from two motorcycles traveling northbound on White Bear Avenue. The officer confirmed that the violation came from these two motorcycles because there was no other traffic on the road. The officer then stopped the motorcycles in the parking lot of a nearby sports bar because the noise was in violation of a state statute and a city ordinance relating to muffler or motor vehicle noise.

The police officer approached the two motorcyclists and asked which one was making all the loud noise.  Mr. Berry admitted that the loud noise was coming from his "after-market" motorcycle.  The officer then noticed Mr. Berry appeared to be intoxicated and after running him through some field sobriety tests, arrested him for DWI.

The District Court in this case upheld the validity of the stop and on appeal, Mr. Berry argued that the stop of his motorcycle violated the Fourth Amendment because the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop when it was clear that he did not know if the loud exhaust was coming from appellant's motorcycle or from the other motorcycle. Appellant asserted that without an individualized suspicion of criminal activity on appellant's part, the officer had "nothing more than a gambler's hunch."

The Appellant relied upon Ascher v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, a supreme court case declaring unconstitutional the use of temporary roadblocks to stop large numbers of drivers in the hope of discovering evidence of alcohol-impaired driving. 519 N.W.2d 183, 187 (Minn. 1994) (A case argued and won by yours truly). 

In Ascher, the supreme court held that such roadblocks violated the Minnesota Constitution because the state failed to articulate a persuasive reason for dispensing with the individualized suspicion requirement.

So one would think that based on Ascher, the Appellant in this case had a pretty good argument. Alas, the Minnesota Court of Appeals did not agree, stating:

"We conclude that the basis for the stop in this case may have been 'minimal,' but the officer did testify that he stopped the motorcycles after hearing a violation of the traffic laws and the district court credited the officer's testimony. The officer's belief that one of two motorcycles was violating the noise laws is reasonable and sufficient to make the suspicion 'individualized,' in that the officer was not conducting a roadblock or stopping a large number of vehicles to see if one was violating the law. Under these circumstances, the district court did not err in holding the stop was lawful and supported by a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity." 

Moral Of The Story: If you are going to drink and drive, keep quiet about it.

Posted by Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms