The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. LaBatte, (Decided March 27, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished), which stands for the proposition that it does not take much for police to be authorized to turn a simple traffic stop into a DWI investigation.
In LaBatte, a police officer working for the Upper Sioux Community Police Department observed a vehicle come to a rolling stop at a stop sign. He activated his squad car's emergency lights, approached the vehicle, and spoke with the driver, appellant LaBatte. The officer observed that LaBatte's voice was low and raspy and that he had droopy eyelids. The officer, who recognized LaBatte from previous contact, testified at a suppression hearing that he had not observed these characteristics in LaBatte before. According to the officer, LaBatte also seemed anxious and restless, and he appeared disoriented and had difficulty finding and removing his driver's license from his wallet. He kept wiping his hands on his pants, which the officer recognized from his training and experience in drug evaluation as a possible response when a person is nervous and under the influence of a drug that increases heart rate and causes sweating. Based on his training and experience, the officer believed that LaBatte could be impaired by a stimulant.
After running LaBatte's driver's license, the officer reapproached the vehicle and had LaBatte undertake field sobriety tests, which LaBatte had difficulty performing. Following the field sobriety tests and a breath test, the officer arrested LaBatte on suspicion of driving while impaired and placed him in the back of the squad car.
When they arrived at the jail, the officer performed a drug evaluation of LaBatte in the jail booking room. The officer asked LaBatte when the puncture marks on his arms dated from. LaBatte replied, "Five days ago." The officer asked, "Free party hit or what?" LaBatte responded, "Pretty much."
The state charged LaBatte with first-degree driving while impaired under the influence of a controlled substance and LaBatte moved to suppress evidence resulting from the stop, arguing that there was no reasonable suspicion of additional illegal activity to justify expansion of the stop by performing field sobriety testing.
The District Court denied the motion to suppress and on appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, stating:
"Police may execute a traffic stop if they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity (citation omitted). Under the Minnesota Constitution, any incremental intrusion during a stop must be justified by and tied to either (1) the circumstances that permitted the original stop, (2) independent probable cause, or (3) reasonableness under Terry. Thus, to expand the scope of a stop to investigate additional illegal activity, an officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion of that other illegal activity."
"LaBatte points out that a driver's nervous behavior alone has been held not to justify expansion of a stop, absent other indications supplying reasonable suspicion....But here, the officer, who had received training as a state-certified drug recognition evaluator, did not just note LaBatte's nervous behavior, raspy voice, and droopy eyelids. He also observed that LaBatte appeared disoriented and had difficulty removing his driver's license from his wallet. The officer was permitted to consider all of these observations together in determining whether reasonable suspicion existed to support expansion of the stop by asking LaBatte to perform field sobriety testing."
"Here, the district court's findings on reasonable suspicion are not clearly erroneous, and under the totality of the circumstances, LaBatte's behavior provided a sufficient basis for the officer to develop reasonable suspicion of additional illegal activity to support expansion of the stop".
Yikes!! Who doest not get nervous when stopped by the police?
Moral Of The Story: If you get pulled over stay calm and relaxed as we all know that a traffic stop by a uniformed police officer is just like going to the Spa!
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.