Monday, July 1, 2019

Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Cunningham (Decided July 1, 2019, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands, once again, for the well established rule that if a police officer observes a traffic violation, the officer has a sufficient basis to make the stop of the vehicle. Yawn.

In Cunningham, Minneapolis Police Officer Andrew Braun and his partner were on patrol driving eastbound on Plymouth Avenue North. The officers had a green light as they approached the intersection of Plymouth and Washington Avenue North. When the officers were approximately 75 to 100 yards away from the intersection, they saw five or six vehicles speed through the intersection travelling southbound on Washington. Because the light was green for traffic going east on Plymouth, Officer Braun knew that traffic going north and south on Washington had a red light.

The officers conducted a traffic stop on a white truck, driven by appellant, which was a part of the convoy of vehicles that had gone through the red light on Washington.  Based upon events after the stop of Cunningham’s truck, Mr. Cunningham was charged with one count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(1) (2016).

The Defendant was convicted after a trial on stipulated facts and on appeal,Cunningham argues that there was no reasonable, articulable suspicion to support Officer Braun’s stop of his truck, and that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the stop.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, noting:

"...a police officer may initiate a limited, investigative stop without a warrant if the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 136 (Minn. 1999) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968)). The reasonable-suspicion standard is not a high one, State v. Diede, 795 N.W.2d 836, 843 (Minn. 2011), but the investigatory stop may not be the result of “mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity,” State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921-22 (Minn. 1996). If an officer observes a violation of a traffic law, even one that is insignificant, there is an objective basis for an investigatory stop. State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997).

Cunningham also argued that the officer's testimony should not have been believed by the district court after Cunningham testified that he did not run a red light.  

The appellate court, however, rejected his argument, pointing out:

"This court gives deference to the fact-finder—especially where resolution of the case depends on conflicting testimony—because weighing the credibility of witnesses is its exclusive function.  State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980)."

Moral Of The Story: Some appeals are just stupid. 

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.