This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
Filed November 21, 2000
Chippewa County District Court
File No. J3-99-50139
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
John M. Tollefson, Lac Qui Parle County Attorney, 600 Sixth Street, Madison, MN 56256 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann E. Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant challenges his adjudication as a juvenile traffic offender for underage drinking and driving. Because we find there was reasonable articulable suspicion justifying an investigatory stop of appellant, we affirm.
While Minnesota State Highway Patrol troopers Ronald Madison and Dale Majachi were stopped on the shoulder of a highway, Madison observed a vehicle approaching their patrol car with its headlights moving from side to side within its own lane. As the vehicle passed the patrol car, Madison noticed that it continued to weave. He identified the vehicle as a blue Ford station wagon.
The troopers followed the car’s taillights for four to five miles. They lost sight of the taillights temporarily, but then saw taillights moving east on a gravel road, which they followed. Because of the dust from the gravel, the troopers were unable to get close to the car until it turned at a stop sign. When they saw that it appeared to be the same blue Ford station wagon that had passed the patrol car earlier, they continued to follow it. Both troopers observed the vehicle again weaving within its own lane. They stopped the vehicle because of the weaving, which they thought was the result of either an equipment problem or the driver’s consumption of alcohol.
The troopers approached the car, Madison on the driver’s side and Majachi on the passenger’s side. Madison detected the odor of alcohol from inside the car while he was speaking with the driver, appellant N.V.K. Majachi observed an open beer bottle between the seat and the front passenger door. Madison asked appellant and his passenger to step out of the car. Majachi searched the car and found a partially empty 12-pack of beer and three empty beer bottles. Appellant consented to a preliminary breath test, which registered a blood alcohol concentration of .06 percent.
The troopers cited appellant for underage drinking and driving in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.1218 (1998). Following trial, the juvenile court concluded that the stop of appellant’s car was a routine traffic stop based upon specific and articulable facts and that appellant committed the offense of underage drinking and driving pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 169.1218. Appellant was adjudicated a juvenile traffic offender and placed on supervised probation for an indeterminate term under several conditions. He challenges the adjudication, arguing that the troopers unjustifiably stopped his car.
D E C I S I O N
When an appellate court reviews a stop based on given facts, the test is not whether the trial court decision is clearly erroneous, but whether, as a matter of law, the basis for the stop was adequate. Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985). “A brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity rather than probable cause.” Warrick v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W. 2d 585, 586 (Minn. App. 1985) (citation omitted).
[T]he officer must have a specific and articulable suspicion of a violation before the stop will be justified.
* * * *
[T]he factual basis required to support a stop for a routine traffic check is minimal. An actual violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law need not be detectable. * * * All that is required is that the stop be not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity. It is enough if the stop is based upon specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.
Marben v. State, Dept. of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (quotations and citations omitted).
Appellant challenges the basis for the stop, arguing that the troopers did not observe a traffic violation. But there is no requirement that an officer actually see a violation. Mere suspicion of an actual violation of the law is sufficient to support a stop. State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 89 (Minn. 2000) (“[W]holly lawful conduct might justify the suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.”
Appellant contends that no Minnesota case has ever upheld a stop under these limited facts. But see, e.g., State v. Engholm, 290 N.W.2d 780, 784 (Minn. 1980) (holding that stop based on vehicle weaving within its lane was lawful); State v. Ellanson, 293 Minn. 490, 491, 198 N.W.2d 136, 137 (1972) (holding that officer lawfully stopped vehicle weaving within its lane to investigate the cause of the unusual driving).
As the juvenile court noted, Trooper Madison is experienced, having
been employed by the state patrol for nine years after serving as a city police
officer for three and a half years. A
trained officer may “draw inferences and make deductions from various objective
observations that might elude an untrained person.” Engwer v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 383 N.W.2d 418, 419
(Minn. App. 1986) (citations
omitted). We agree with the juvenile court that the troopers had a rational basis to stop appellant.