This opinion will be unpublished and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

C5-01-123

 

State of Minnesota,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Mark Evan Miranda,

Respondent.

 

Filed July 3, 2001

Affirmed

Willis, Judge

 

Winona County District Court

File No. K3001007

 

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

 

Charles E. MacLean, Winona County Attorney, Nancy L. Bostrack, Assistant County Attorney, Winona County Courthouse, 171 West Third Street, Winona, MN  55987 (for appellant)

 

Mark D. Nyvold, 46 East Fourth Street, Suite 1030, St. Paul, MN  55102 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s pretrial order suppressing evidence found during a traffic stop.  Because the arresting officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified continuing the traffic stop beyond its original purpose, we affirm.

FACTS

In July 2000, Winona Police Officer Richard Koop heard loud music and then observed the car from which the music was coming.  After pulling the vehicle over, Koop approached it and asked the driver, respondent Mark E. Miranda, for his license and proof of insurance.  Miranda did not have his driver’s license with him, but he told Koop his name and date of birth.  Koop then went back to his car to “run a check” on Miranda, which showed that Miranda had a valid driver’s license and that the car was not stolen.  At the omnibus hearing, Koop testified that he recognized two other occupants of the car as “known drug dealer[s]” and that, although he did not recognize Miranda’s face, he believed Miranda had a reputation as a “possible narcotics dealer.” 

            Instead of giving Miranda a “verbal warning about the loud music,” as Koop testified he had originally planned to do, Koop returned to Miranda’s car and asked if “there was anything illegal in the vehicle.”  Koop testified that after he asked this question, Miranda became nervous.  Koop further asked Miranda if he would consent to a search of the car, but Miranda said that he was “in a hurry to get somewhere,” and he “just kind of darted around that question.”  Koop then told Miranda that he had a drug-sniffing dog in the squad car, whereupon Miranda became “extremely nervous” and began to sweat and stutter.  Koop ordered Miranda and his passengers to exit the car and stand on the sidewalk while he walked the dog around the outside of the vehicle to sniff for drugs.  Based on an alert by the dog, Koop searched the car and found crack cocaine and marijuana.

The state charged Miranda with (1) controlled-substance crime in the fifth degree, (2) possession of marijuana, (3) possession of drug paraphernalia, (4) violating Winona’s noise ordinance, and (5) possession of fireworks.  At a September 2000 omnibus hearing, Miranda challenged the stop and moved to suppress the evidence.  The district court determined that Koop’s initial stop of Miranda for violating the noise ordinance was valid but concluded that the “evidence obtained following the unreasonable extension of the initially valid traffic stop” was discovered in violation of Miranda’s constitutional rights.  The state appeals.

D E C I S I O N

The state argues that the district court erred in granting Miranda’s motion to suppress the evidence found after the stop of Miranda’s car.  Reviewing courts will reverse the suppression of evidence only if the state demonstrates clearly and unequivocally both that (1) the district court’s order will have a critical impact on the state’s ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and (2) the order constituted error.  State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998).  Neither party disputes that the critical-impact requirement is satisfied here.  The issue, then, is whether the district court clearly and unequivocally erred in suppressing the evidence.  An appellate court may independently review the facts to determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing evidence.  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).

An investigatory stop is constitutional in the absence of probable cause or a warrant if the officer can point to specific and articulable facts that, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion.  State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996) (explaining that a “brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than probable cause.”) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)).  Reasonable suspicion requires that the officer “be able to articulate something more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch.”  United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S. Ct. 1581, 1585 (1989) (quotation omitted).  A determination of reasonable suspicion requires that appellate courts consider the totality of the circumstances that led to an officer’s initial suspicion.  Id. at 8, 109 S. Ct. at 1585; State v. Haataja, 611 N.W.2d 353, 354 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. July 25, 2000).

The district court concluded that Koop’s initial stop of Miranda was legal because of the loud music coming from Miranda’s car.  See State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997) (noting that traffic stops must be justified by “an objective legal basis.”).  The district court also concluded that Koop did not have a sufficiently reasoned suspicion of particular criminal activity independent of the violation of the noise ordinance and that the “extended detention” was therefore invalid. 

The state argues that the following observations by Koop justified the detention after the stop:  (1) Miranda drove for two blocks before stopping, even though he had earlier opportunities to pull over; (2) two persons in the car were “known drug dealers”; (3) Miranda had a reputation of being a “possible narcotics dealer”; (4) Miranda became nervous after Koop asked to search the car; and (5) Miranda began sweating and stuttering when Koop told him that there was a drug-sniffing dog in the squad car.  Miranda maintains that these factors provided no basis for Koop to believe that Miranda had committed any offense other than the noise violation.

Koop testified that after he learned that Miranda’s license was valid and that the car was not stolen, he “was going to give [Miranda] a verbal warning for loud music.”  This statement is consistent with Koop’s actions up to the time at which he asked Miranda if there was anything illegal in the car.  But the record shows that Miranda’s behavior provided no basis for Koop to suspect that Miranda was involved in any criminal activity other than a violation of the noise ordinance.  The record also shows that Miranda was cooperative during the stop.  After determining that Miranda had a valid license and that the car was not stolen, Koop either should have cited Miranda for violating the noise ordinance or given him a warning.  See State v. Bell, 557 N.W.2d 603, 606 (Minn. App. 1996) (stating general rule that detention following a lawful stop “may not continue indefinitely but only as long as reasonably necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.”) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Mar. 18, 1997).

The factors Koop cited to show that he had a reasonable suspicion that Miranda was engaged in criminal activity did not justify the detention.  First, Miranda’s failure to stop for two blocks did not appear to be a factor in Koop’s decision to detain him.  Koop did not testify that he believed Miranda was trying to evade him, nor did he cite Miranda for fleeing an officer.  Second, it is not unusual for a person dealing with police officers to be nervous, even if that person is innocent of any wrongdoing.  See, e.g., State v. Robb, 605 N.W.2d 96, 103 (Minn. 2000) (holding that defendant’s nervousness did not provide officers with reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify protective search of vehicle).  And, as the district court noted, Miranda became nervous “only after the detention continued beyond the time reasonably required for the legitimate purpose of the stop.”

            Third, the fact that Miranda was with two known drug dealers is not a sufficient basis for suspecting that Miranda was engaged in criminal activities.  See, e.g.,State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 890 (Minn. 1998) (explaining that “mere association with a suspected drug dealer does not provide a reasonable basis to suspect that a person may be armed and dangerous”); State v. Blacksten, 507 N.W.2d 842, 847 (Minn. 1993) (stating that mere association with another suspect does not constitute probable cause for an arrest); State v. Ingram, 570 N.W.2d 173, 177 (Minn. App. 1997) (stating that “merely speaking with and being in close proximity with others suspected of criminal activity, without more, may be insufficient * * * to reach the threshold of reasonable articulable suspicion”), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1997).  Koop also testified that Miranda was reported to be a “possible drug dealer,” based on conversations that Koop had with other officers.  But Koop offered no evidence that Miranda’s behavior had provided him with a reasonable, articulable suspicion that Miranda was engaged in or wanted in connection with a crime.  See United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 229, 105 S. Ct. 675, 680 (1985) (holding that a Terry stop may be made to investigate reasonable suspicion if officer encounters a person who was involved in or is wanted in connection with a completed crime); see also State v. Cook, 610 N.W.2d 664, 668 (Minn. App. 2000) (holding, in confidential-informant context, that information may not be gained about a suspect based on that “suspect’s general reputation or on a casual rumor circulating in the criminal underworld.”) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. July 25, 2000).

            Because Koop’s detention of Miranda continued beyond the time necessary for him to cite Miranda for a noise violation or to give him a warning and because the investigatory aspects of the stop were based more on whim and a “hunch” than on a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, we conclude that the detention following the stop was unconstitutional.  The district court did not, therefore, err in suppressing the evidence discovered as a result of the detention.

            Affirmed.