This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Rayford Fredricke Hickman,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 0080448
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Jay M. Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Patrick A. Marzitelli, Assistant City Attorney, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, Renee Bergeron, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In a pretrial appeal, the state challenges a district court order suppressing evidence obtained after an off-duty police officer detained Rayford Hickman for a suspected parking violation. We conclude that the officer’s initial inquiry was constitutionally permissible, but, after Hickman produced both his handicapped-parking permit and his driver’s license, the officer did not have a constitutionally reasonable basis for further detention. We therefore affirm the district court’s suppression order.
Minneapolis police officer Scott Olson, working as an off-duty security guard, saw a sport-utility vehicle parked in a handicapped-parking spot. Because Olson was inside a building and because the vehicle’s windows were tinted, he could not see the required handicapped-parking permit. After the driver, Rayford Hickman, returned to the vehicle, Olson approached him and asked to see his handicapped-parking permit and driver’s license. Hickman showed him both his permit and license. The officer copied down the permit number and Hickman’s name and birthdate from his driver’s license before returning the permit and license.
Even though the permit appeared to be valid and was consistent with the driver’s license identification, Olson testified that he told Hickman to wait while he went inside to make a phone call to further investigate. Contrary to Olson’s testimony, Hickman testified that Olson did not ask him to wait, and believing the inquiry concluded, he put his vehicle in reverse and began to back out of the parking spot. Hickman and Olson both testified that as Hickman was backing away, he made a comment to Olson questioning Olson’s authority. A few seconds later, Olson jumped on the running board and reached into the vehicle to stop it. After it stopped, Officer Olson arrested Hickman.
Hickman has a valid handicapped-parking permit. He is 70% disabled, having suffered a back injury while in the army during the Gulf War. Hickman was charged with obstructing legal process in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1 (2000), and was not cited for a handicapped-parking violation.
Following a pretrial hearing, the district court suppressed all evidence of Hickman’s actions after Hickman provided Olson with the permit and license. The court then dismissed the charge of obstructing legal process. The state appeals, arguing that Olson’s seizure of Hickman was constitutionally valid. Alternatively, the state argues that, regardless of the constitutional validity of the seizure, evidence of Hickman’s resisting detention is independently admissible and thus the case was improperly dismissed.
To prevail in a pretrial appeal from an order suppressing evidence, the state must show both that the district court’s ruling is erroneous and that the ruling will have a critical impact on the outcome of the criminal prosecution. State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181, 184 (Minn. 1997). Neither the state nor Hickman disputes the critical impact of the order suppressing evidence of Hickman’s conduct following the initial investigative inquiry. Although the facts surrounding the investigative inquiry and subsequent seizure were disputed in the district court, the findings are not challenged on appeal. Thus, the constitutional validity of the suppression order presents a legal question, which we review de novo. City of St. Louis Park v. Berg, 433 N.W.2d 87, 89 (Minn. 1988) (legality of arrest and suppression of related evidence is legal determination when based on facts not in dispute or facts as found).
Both the United States and Minnesota constitutions protect against unreasonable searches and seizures by the state. U.S. Const. amend IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. A police officer can lawfully make a limited investigative stop or seizure of an individual if the officer “is able to point to specific and articulable facts, which taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” Holmes, 569 N.W.2d at 184 (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968) (citation omitted)). This type of seizure does not require probable cause, but does require a “particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.” United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981) (citations omitted).
Under Minnesota law, a person who is neither physically disabled nor transporting another who is physically disabled may not park a motor vehicle in a parking space designated for physically disabled persons. Minn. Stat. § 169.346, subds. 1(1), (3)(i) (2000). The district court found that Olson’s “initial approach to ask [Hickman] about the permit was reasonable” because Olson could see no handicapped-parking permit. The record supports the district court’s finding that the initial inquiry was based on an objectively reasonable suspicion of illegal parking. Furthermore, a police officer’s approaching a person in a parked car does not constitute a seizure. State v. Vohnoutka, 292 N.W.2d 756, 757 (Minn. 1980).
But when police direct a suspect to stop and when they demonstrate that they will enforce that directive, the person is seized. See In re Welfare of E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 780, 783 (Minn. 1993) (holding that police seized suspect when they directed him to stop after he walked about five steps away from police). Thus a seizure occurred, according to Olson’s testimony, when he told Hickman to wait until he further verified the permit and, according to Hickman’s testimony, when Olson forcibly stopped Hickman’s vehicle.
The district court reasoned that any request for Hickman to wait while Olson further investigated the validity of Hickman’s permit was an impermissible seizure. The court reasonably relied on the holding of Holmes that “a police officer who merely has reasonable suspicion that a parking violation has occurred cannot seize an individual for the purpose of investigation.” 569 N.W.2d at 185 (finding that police officer’s reasonable suspicion that driver had illegally parked his vehicle was not sufficient to justify a Terry stop). Because a parking violation is not as serious as a traffic violation, a police officer suspecting that a person has committed a parking violation may stop the person only if the stop is necessary to prevent evasion from citation. Id.
Olson testified that Hickman’s permit looked valid and proper. Because police may detain a suspect “only as long as reasonably necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop,” State v. Blacksten, 507 N.W.2d 842, 846 (Minn. 1993) (citation omitted), and the purpose of the stop was satisfied when the officer saw Hickman’s apparently valid permit, further detention of Hickman was constitutionally unreasonable. See State v. Hickman, 491 N.W.2d 673, 675 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992) (detaining suspect to check driver’s license constituted an unlawful intrusion because officer’s suspicions about vehicle’s registration were dispelled after he saw proper temporary-permit sticker on license plate); see also Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 9.2(f), at 382 (3d ed. 1996) (“[I]f a person is stopped on suspicion that he has just engaged in criminal activity, but the suspect identifies himself satisfactorily and investigation establishes that no offense has occurred, there is no basis for further detention, and the suspect must be released.”) The district court properly rejected as a justification for the further detention that Olson was aware of reports of persons using illegally obtained permits. A mere hunch that a person could illegally obtain a permit is an insufficient basis for an investigative seizure when the permit and the driver’s license provide no basis for an individualized suspicion of illegal behavior. See, e.g., State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996) (excluding “mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity” as a basis for an investigative seizure).
The state alternatively argues that even if Hickman’s constitutional rights were violated, the district court erred in suppressing evidence of Hickman’s subsequent conduct because evidence of resisting an unlawful seizure is not protected by the “poisonous fruit doctrine.” Berg, 433 N.W.2d at 90 (holding that there is no right to resist an illegal arrest and evidence of a suspect’s resistance is generally not suppressed even if the arrest is later ruled unconstitutional).
Even if the state is correct, the court’s oral findings and conclusions at the close of the hearing address not only the suppression of evidence obtained from the illegal detention, but also the absence of credible evidence to provide probable cause that Hickman obstructed legal process. After a full hearing on the evidentiary issues, the court stated that it “also had an opportunity to review what evidence the state has been able to show.” The court evaluated the evidence on the record, and concluded that “the state doesn’t have a case.”
Probable cause is established if the state shows it has substantial evidence admissible at trial that “would justify denial of a motion for a directed verdict of acquittal.” State v. Dunagan, 521 N.W.2d 355, 356 (Minn. 1994) (quotation omitted). Thus the evidence must be sufficient to sustain a conviction for the charged offense. See Minn. R. Crim. P. § 26.03, subd. 17(i) (requiring order of acquittal if evidence is insufficient to sustain conviction).
The district court not only heard the testimony of several witnesses, including both Olson and Hickman, but also reviewed a soundless store security videotape of the entire episode. In evaluating the evidence, particularly as depicted in the video, the district court specifically found that Olson’s testimony was not credible in significant areas, including his testimony that (1) he could see through the vehicle’s dark tinted windows that the parking permit was not properly displayed, (2) he went out on the sidewalk to look through the vehicle’s windshield, and (3) he was only a few seconds behind Hickman and watched him get into the vehicle. The court concluded that it is “clear from the court looking at the tape” that it “doesn’t seem very likely that [Olson’s account] is the actual course of events.” A probable cause dismissal based on a factual determination is not appealable. Minn. R. Crim. P. § 28.04, subd. 1(1)(a). Thus, although we do not specifically review the district court’s probable cause determination, we reject the state’s claim that thd dismissal should be reversed. See State v. Florence, 239 N.W.2d 892, 900, 306 Minn. 442, 457 (1976) (defining the district court’s role in probable cause determination to “exercise an independent and concerned judgment addressed to this important question: Given the facts disclosed by the record, is it fair and reasonable * * * to require the defendant to stand trial?”)
[ Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.