This opinion will be unpublished and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,
City of Apple Valley,
Timothy Alan Anderson,
Dakota County District Court
File No. TX0059196
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 102 State Capitol, 75 Constitution Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55155; and
Michael E. Molenda, Apple Valley City Attorney, Richard G. Stultz, Assistant City Attorney, 7300 West 147th Street, Suite 600, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for appellant)
Michael J. Brandt, Allan H. Caplan & Associates, P.A., 525 Lumber Exchange Building, 10 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
The state appeals from a pretrial order suppressing evidence and dismissing charges against respondent Timothy Anderson of driving after suspension of his driver’s license and driving an overweight vehicle. We affirm.
Respondent Timothy Anderson was driving his dump truck in Apple Valley when a city police officer on commercial motor vehicle weight restriction patrol stopped him. The reason for the stop was the officer’s belief that the truck exceeded the permissible weight limit. The officer’s investigation showed that the truck did exceed the limit and that Anderson’s driver’s license was under suspension. The officer issued a citation for both offenses.
Anderson pleaded not guilty and moved to suppress all evidence and to dismiss the charges on the ground that the officer had no legal basis for the stop.
During the suppression hearing, the district court heard conflicting testimony as to the adequacy of the officer’s opportunity to observe the truck. The district court found that Anderson was traveling behind the officer on County Road 42. When the officer reached Galaxy Avenue he turned north, made a U-turn, returned to County Road 42, and “immediately stopped” Anderson. The district court found that evidence of the officer’s opportunity to observe the truck was lacking:
Except for testimony that the police officer was in front of the truck while they drove on County Road 42, there is no other evidence of where the officer was located in relation to [Anderson’s] truck to observe whether the truck was overweight.
The court granted Anderson’s motions to suppress and to dismiss the charges, concluding that the officer did not have “an objectively reasonable articulable suspicion or basis to stop [Anderson], and the stop was based upon mere whim or curiosity.” The state appealed.
In an appeal of a pretrial ruling dismissing a criminal charge, an appellate court will reverse the district court’s determination only if the state demonstrates clearly and unequivocally that the district court erred in its ruling and that the error will have a critical impact on the outcome of the case. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992). The parties agree that suppression of the evidence obtained by the officer as a result of his stop had a critical impact on the case because the ruling resulted in a dismissal of the charges. Thus, the issue on appeal is whether the district court clearly and unequivocally erred in suppressing the evidence.
“In reviewing a district court's determinations of the legality of a limited investigatory stop, we review questions of reasonable suspicion de novo.” State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (Minn. 2000). In doing so, we review findings of fact for clear error, “giv[ing] due weight to [the] inferences drawn from those facts [by the district court].” State v. Lee, 585 N.W.2d 378, 383 (Minn. 1998) (quoting Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S. Ct. 1657 (1996)).
A brief investigatory stop of a person is lawful if the officer is able to articulate a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.
State v. Haataja, 611 N.W.2d 353, 354 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. July 25, 2000). “The factual basis required to support a stop is minimal.” Knapp v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 610 N.W.2d 625, 628 (Minn. 2000) (citation omitted). However, the police must show that the stop was not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity. Britton,604 N.W.2d at 87 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)).
Officers may make their assessment on the basis of all of the relevant circumstances, drawing on inferences and making deductions which “might elude an untrained person.” Holm v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety,416 N.W.2d 473, 474 (Minn. App. 1987) (citing U. S. v. Cortez, 449 U.S.411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 694-5, (1981)). These circumstances 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).
Here, the officer testified that he observed that Anderson’s truck was carrying a load of sand and that the size of the load appeared to be over capacity because the rear wheels of Anderson’s truck appeared “squatty.” However, Anderson disputes the officer’s testimony and asserts that the officer did not have an adequate opportunity to view the rear wheels of his vehicle because the officer immediately stopped Anderson’s vehicle after it passed the other at the intersection of Galaxy Avenue and County Road 42. Anderson testified that prior to that time he was following the officer’s car, a position that would not allow the officer to see the rear wheels of his truck.
At a pretrial suppression hearing the district court “acts as finder of facts, deciding for purposes of admissibility which evidence to believe and whether the state has met its burden of proof.” State v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1983) (quoting State v. LaFrance, 302 Minn. 245, 246, 223 N.W.2d 813, 814 (1974)). We defer to the district court's determinations of witness credibility. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating that due regard shall be given to district court's opportunity to judge witness credibility); State v. Morgan, 296 N.W.2d 397, 401 (Minn. 1980) (stating witness credibility determination is for district court as fact-finder). The district court found that the officer stopped Anderson’s vehicle “immediately” after Anderson passed the officer’s waiting vehicle. We must defer to the fact-finder in its resolution of a credibility issue unless the clear evidence overwhelmingly compels only one conclusion. DeMars v. State, 352 N.W.2d 13, 16 (Minn. 1984). This conflicting evidence does not compel a single conclusion. Thus, the district court’s finding that the officer did not have an adequate opportunity to observe the truck before the stop was not clearly erroneous.