This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Karl George Granse,
Filed January 18, 2000
Dakota County District Court
File No. K0 98 2911
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Elliott B. Knetsch, Matthew K. Brokl, Campbell Knutson, P.A., 317 Eagandale Office Center, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Eagan, MN 55121 (for respondent)
Timothy S. Choal, 1759 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Karl George Granse appeals from the district court’s pretrial order denying his motion to dismiss four gross misdemeanor counts related to driving under the influence of alcohol and the court’s order finding him guilty of all four counts. Granse moved the court to dismiss the charges arguing the stop was illegal. The district court found that the officer had a reasonable basis to stop Granse. We affirm.
On November 9, 1998, at approximately 11:42 p.m., an employee of the SuperAmerica store located near 162nd and Cedar Avenue in Lakeville, Minnesota, called 911 to report that an individual who appeared to be intoxicated had just left the store and was driving south on Cedar. The employee, who identified herself as "April," stated that one of her co-workers had interacted with the individual. April provided the 911 operator with a description of the car and its license plate number.
The 911 operator checked the vehicle’s registration. It was registered to a resident of Lakeville. The 911 operator radioed a Lakeville police officer, William Gerl, who went to the vehicle owner’s residence to investigate. Upon arrival, Gerl went to the front door of the residence and rang the doorbell several times. When no one answered the door, Gerl returned to his squad car. As he was walking back to his squad car, a vehicle matching the description provided to him by the 911 operator turned into the driveway. Granse got out of the vehicle and started walking toward the house.
Gerl approached Granse and began to ask him questions. The state did not contest that Gerl’s interaction with Granse amounted to a Fourth Amendment stop for investigation. Gerl noticed that Granse was showing signs of intoxication and asked him to perform field sobriety tests. Granse failed both field sobriety tests he was asked to perform. Gerl also noted that Granse’s speech was slurred, his eyes were watery, and his pupils dilated. Granse refused to provide a breath sample for a preliminary breath test. Gerl then placed Granse under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Gerl transported Granse to the Lakeville police station where he was given approximately one hour to contact an attorney. Unsuccessful in this effort, Granse decided to submit to a breathalyzer test. His initial breath sample was insufficient to produce an accurate reading and Granse refused to provide an additional sample.
Granse was charged with four gross misdemeanors: (1) aggravated DWI in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.129, subds. 1, 2(b) (1998); (2) DUI in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.121, subds. 1(a), 3(d)(2) (1998); (3) refusal to take a chemical test in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.121, subds. 1a, 3(d)(2); and (4) driving after cancellation in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 5 (1998).
Granse brought a motion to dismiss the charges, alleging that the stop was illegal. The trial court determined that there were specific and articulable facts sufficient to create a reasonable basis for the stop. The trial court, therefore, denied the motion to dismiss. Granse waived his right to a jury trial and the case was submitted to the judge on the facts contained in the record. The trial court found Granse guilty of all four offenses. Granse now appeals from the trial court’s order denying his motion to dismiss and the order finding him guilty.
D E C I S I O N
Whether a stop is valid is a question of law. Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985). On review, this court "may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the evidence need be suppressed." State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
The stop of a vehicle is justified if the officer has specific and articulable suspicion of a violation before the stop occurs. Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980). "To establish reasonable articulable suspicion, the police need only ‘show that the stop was not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.’" State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 136 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted). The factual basis for the officer’s suspicion need not arise from the officer’s personal observations. Marben, 294 N.W.2d at 699. It can arise from information obtained from another person. Id. Information from a private citizen is presumed reliable. Id. Furthermore, "[a]n officer is justified in relying on the dispatcher’s message." State v. Pealer, 488 N.W.2d 3, 4 (Minn. App. 1992) (citation omitted).
In this case, the state claims that the reasonable basis for the officer’s suspicion is the report he received from the dispatcher following the 911 call made by April, the SuperAmerica employee. At the hearing on Granse’s motion to suppress, the parties stipulated that April did not have any personal knowledge of the facts she relayed to the 911 operator. Rather, she received the information about Granse’s apparent intoxication from a co-worker, Paul Cunningham. Granse contends that the "tip" in this case cannot form the basis of the officer’s suspicion because it was made by an individual without personal knowledge of the facts being conveyed to the officer through the 911 operator.
The United States Supreme Court has noted that "the subtleties of the hearsay rule should not thwart an appropriate police response." Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147, 92 S. Ct. 1921, 1924 (1972). Granse’s argument relies primarily upon "the subtleties of the hearsay rule." Granse argues that because April did not have personal knowledge of the situation the information she provided was not reliable. Granse does not contend that the information provided to the 911 operator was insufficient to form the requisite factual basis necessary for the stop, but that the information came from the wrong person.
The primary focus in informant cases is the reliability of the information provided to the police. In re G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 691 (Minn. 1997); State v. Cavegn, 294 N.W.2d 717, 721 (Minn. 1980). The fact that Cunningham did not call 911 does not make the information he provided to the police through April unreliable. "[A]n unknown or anonymous person can, given other indicia of reliability, provide the basis for reasonable suspicion." In re G.M., 560 N.W.2d at 690 (citation omitted).
Ultimately, we must decide whether the information provided by an informant is reliable. To do so, we look both at the informant and the informant’s source of the information and judge them against "all of the circumstances."
Id. at 691 (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981)).
In this case, the informant identified herself by name and employer and identified the source of her information as her co-worker. Because the informant and source were identified, they could be held accountable if the information was false. This is a key factor in determining the reliability of the information provided by an informant. See City of Minnetonka v. Shepherd, 420 N.W.2d 887, 890 (Minn. 1988); Playle v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 439 N.W.2d 747, 748 (Minn. App. 1989). There was no reason for the police to consider the information unreliable or untrustworthy in this case.
Furthermore, the informant’s allegation of criminal activity, i.e., driving under the influence, contained specific and articulable facts providing the requisite indicia of reliability. See Olson v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 371 N.W.2d 552, 556 (Minn. 1985) (holding that specific and articulable facts from an anonymous informant necessary if police choose to stop based on the tip alone). April told the 911 operator that Granse had admitted he was drunk and that he got into his car and drove away. She also provided a description of a vehicle, a license plate number, and the vehicle’s direction of travel. When the 911 operator checked the vehicle registration for that license plate number, the vehicle identified by the state records matched the description given by the informant. Additionally, when the officer was at the residence of the registered owner of the vehicle, a car matching the description and being driven by a male pulled into the driveway.
Given the totality of the circumstances, the information was sufficiently reliable to provide the basis for reasonable suspicion.