This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






State of Minnesota,





Raul Garcia Salas,



Filed July 3, 2000


Poritsky, Judge*


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 99014112


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Jay Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Michael Hess, Assistant City Attorney, 300 Metropolitan Centre, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)


Richard W. LeRoy, Sara L. Martin, Legal Rights Center, Inc., 1611 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN  55404 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges his conviction for a gross misdemeanor, aggravated DWI-related violation.  He asserts that the district court erred in refusing to suppress evidence, on the ground that it stemmed from an unlawful stop.  We affirm.


            At approximately 1:10 a.m. on February 12, 1999, Officer Brian Anderson and his partner observed a vehicle travelling north on Nicollet Avenue move into a left turn lane for 58th Street.  The driver of the vehicle, later identified as appellant Raul Garcia Salas, drove past 58th Street and continued driving in the center lane, driving through the turn lane designated for southbound traffic and into an area which contained several allegedly conflicting road markings.  The car then moved back into the normal lane of traffic and continued traveling north.[1]  The officers stopped the vehicle and noticed Salas smelled of alcohol and his eyes were watery and bloodshot.  Salas failed field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test and was arrested for driving while intoxicated.  He refused to take an Intoxilyzer test.

            Salas was charged with gross misdemeanors for driving while under the influence of alcohol, test refusal, an aggravated DWI-related violation, and driving after cancellation.  During his Rasmussen hearing, Salas moved to suppress all the evidence as fruit of an illegal stop.  The district court denied the motion.  The parties then agreed to a bench trial on stipulated facts, and the district court found Salas guilty of the aggravated DWI-related violation.


            Salas does not challenge the district court’s findings of fact; thus, we review de novo whether the findings support the district court’s decision denying Salas’s motion to suppress.  See State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992) (stating that when reviewing challenges to pretrial suppression orders where facts are undisputed, appellate court independently examines facts and determines whether evidence should be suppressed as matter of law).

            Salas first asserts that because the road markings were unclear, the officers’ stop violated Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 4(b) (1998), which states that traffic regulations involving official traffic devices[2] shall not be enforced against an alleged violator if “an official [traffic] device is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.”  He also contends that his due process rights were violated because he did not have fair warning that his driving conduct violated the law.    

            Despite Salas’s arguments, the fact is he was not charged with a traffic violation for failing to observe the road markings.  Instead, his driving conduct formed a basis for the police stop.  Thus, the only issue here is whether the police lawfully stopped his vehicle.

            To make a lawful traffic stop, a police officer “must have a specific and articulable suspicion of a violation.”  Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968)).  In reviewing officers’ actions, courts should consider the totality of the circumstances and “remember that trained law-enforcement officers are permitted to make ‘inferences and deductions that might well elude an untrained person.’”  State v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1983) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981)).  Circumstances to consider include

the officer’s general knowledge and experience, the officer’s personal observations, information the officer has received from other sources, the nature of the offense suspected, the time, the location, and anything else that is relevant.


Appelgate v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 402 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Minn. 1987).

             The district court recognized that Salas may have been confused by the road markings but went on to conclude that the officers had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to support the stop.  Thus, the district court implicitly determined that the road markings were not so confusing as to support Salas’s argument that the police could not lawfully stop his vehicle, and we find sufficient evidence in the record to support this conclusion.  While we recognize that Salas might not have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of violating traffic regulations, the officers did not need proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even probable cause to support their stop.  The officers needed only a specific, articulable suspicion of a traffic violation.  See State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996) (recognizing brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and not probable cause); Marben, 294 N.W.2d at 699 (stating lawful traffic stop must be supported by “specific and articulable suspicion of a violation” (citation omitted)).

            Officer Anderson testified that Salas entered the turn lane for 58th Street and drove past the intersection without turning or moving back into the northbound lane.  The district court found, based on this testimony, that Salas, who was driving north, drove through the turn lane designated for traffic traveling south.  This action was a traffic violation.  See Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 4(a) (1998) (stating driver shall obey official traffic control devices).  A minor traffic violation may form an objective basis for stopping a vehicle.  State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997); see also State v. Battleson, 567 N.W.2d 69, 70-71 (Minn. App. 1997) (holding officer had objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion justifying stop after defendant drove with headlights off for short distance and drove partly on shoulder of road for 300 to 400 feet); cf. Pike, 551 N.W.2d at 921-22 (recognizing stop may be made even absent traffic or vehicle violation if stop not based on whim, caprice, or idle curiosity and supported by articulable facts reasonably warranting stop). 

            We also note that Salas was stopped at approximately 1:10 a.m., just after bar-closing time.  See Paulson v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 384 N.W.2d 244, 246 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding Fourth Amendment seizure justified by officer’s reasonable suspicion where evidence included fact that shortly after bar-closing time defendant was on road commonly used by particular bar’s patrons); cf. State v. Schauer, 501 N.W.2d 673, 675 (Minn. App. 1993) (concluding probable cause for blood test existed where, in addition to observing other indicia of intoxication, officer knew defendant had been in car accident shortly after bar-closing time).

            The police had a reasonable, articulable basis for stopping Salas.  Officers observed that Salas (a) moved into a turn lane but continued through the intersection without turning and (b) committed a traffic violation by driving through the turn lane designated for traffic traveling in the opposite direction.  Additionally, this incident occurred just after bar-closing time.  On these facts, the district court did not err by refusing to grant Salas’s motion to suppress the evidence.


* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

            [1] The district court did not resolve whether Salas used his turn signal when he moved in and out of the through-traffic lane.  Because the testimony on this issue was conflicting, and the district court did not make any findings on the issue, we will determine only whether the district court decision may be upheld absent a finding on this issue.  Cf. State v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528-29 (Minn. 1983) (emphasizing importance of district court findings made at pretrial suppression hearings but stating reviewing court will not remand if it can determine that even if defendant’s testimony was true, defendant’s rights were not violated).

[2]  Official traffic control devices include “signs, signals, markings, and devices.”  Minn. Stat. § 169.01, subd. 41 (1998).