Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Galler (Decided February 13, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the police cannot justify a vehicle stop based upon evidence found after the stop was made.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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Boline (Decided February 6, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that sometimes, the police are entirely too suspicious.

In Boline, a Crystal police officer started following the respondent's car after she left a bar at 1:30 a.m. The officer clocked the speed of the respondent's car as 24 mph in a 35 mph zone.  The respondent used her blinker to indicate a left turn but she then turned off her blinker and continued on her course.  At the next cross street, respondent reactivated her left turn signal and made a left turn.

The officer then saw the respondent pull into a driveway and when he ran a license check, he learned the registered owner lived in a neighboring city.  The officer observed the respondent was driving in the opposite direction the car's registered address.  After circling the neighborhood, the officer saw respondent turning onto northbound West Broadway and resumed following her. Shortly thereafter, West Broadway expanded from one to two northbound lanes. The officer initiated a traffic stop after observing that respondent did not use her blinker upon entering the rightmost lane as the road expanded to two northbound lanes. After speaking with respondent and administering field sobriety tests, the officer formed the opinion that respondent was driving while under the influence of alcohol and placed her under arrest.

The respondent was subsequently charged with 3rd degree dwi and she challenged the validity of the initial stop in the district court.  At the district court hearing, the officer testified that he found the following conduct to be odd or indicative of an attempt to evade police: "(1) driving 11 mph slower than the 35 mph speed limit; (2) making a quick turn and parking in a driveway that was different from the car's registered address; and (3) turning onto northbound West Broadway shortly after traveling on southbound West Broadway. The officer also noted that this conduct occurred around 1:30 a.m., and "there's definitely a possibility that [respondent] was leaving the bar, that potentially [respondent] was under the influence of alcohol, and [was] trying to evade [the officer]."

The District Court granted the respondent's motion to suppress finding that the police officer lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion to make the initial stop of her vehicle and the State appealed the court's order. 

On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court noting:

"As noted in State v. Johnson, there are some types of motorist behavior that are not unusual and, standing alone, will not provide justification for an investigatory stop. 444 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989). Here, the only observation pertaining to respondent's driving style was that she was traveling below the speed limit. However, contrary to the state's assertion, it is not odd or unusual to travel below the speed limit when driving in dark conditions. And, unlike the facts of State v. Haataja, the record does not indicate that respondent's slow driving was impeding traffic. 611 N.W.2d 353, 355 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000)."

"The facts of this case are also distinguishable from Johnson, where the defendant exited the highway after making eye contact with a police officer. 444 N.W.2d at 825. Shortly thereafter, the officer saw the defendant reemerge back onto the highway and inferred that he was attempting to avoid the officer. Id. Under those facts, the supreme court determined that the officer had a sufficient basis to stop the driver, reasoning that "if the driver's conduct is such that the officer reasonably infers that the driver is deliberately trying to evade the officer and if, as a result, a reasonable police officer would suspect the driver of criminal activity, then the officer may stop the driver." 

"Here, there is no suggestion that respondent's conduct constituted a deliberate attempt to evade the officer, nor is there any indication that respondent knew the officer was following her. Therefore, the facts of Johnson are distinguishable from the current case, and the officer's suspicion that respondent engaged in furtive conduct to evade a traffic stop was unreasonable."

"Second, the state argues that the district court's suppression order was erroneous because respondent violated Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 4, by failing to use her blinker. In response, respondent argues that she did not violate the statute because she "was simply following the fog line and remaining in the most right lane." 

"The statute at issue in this case provides:
No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in this section, or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a highway unless and until the movement can be made with reasonable safety after giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided."

"The plain language of Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 4, requires drivers to signal when "rurn[ing] a vehicle from a direct course or moving right or left upon a highway." There is no language requiring drivers to signal in situations where, as here, a road expands to add an additional lane. Respondent did not move right or left upon the highway or cross the broken white line when entering the rightmost lane on West Broadway. Such conduct is readily distinguishable from the typical highway lane change between established lanes, as addressed in Bissonette. See 445 N.W.2d at 844 (noting defendant's failure to signal before several highway lane changes). Nor did she turn her car from a direct course. Put another way, respondent merely continued to follow the fog line and remained in the rightmost lane as the roadway expanded from one to two northbound lanes."

Moral Of The Story: The police are entirely too suspicious; especially late at night!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for 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 questions.