This opinion will be unpublished and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

CX-01-912

 

Brett Richard Grosklags,

petitioner,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Commissioner of Public Safety,

Respondent.

 

Filed November 20, 2001

Affirmed

Harten, Judge

 

Dakota County District Court

File No. C6-00-15695

 

James H. Leviton, 55 Professional Building, Suite 142, 4825 Olson Memorial Highway, Minneapolis, MN 55422 (for appellant)

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Darren L. Dejong, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

 

HARTEN, Judge

 

Appellant argues that the district court erred in sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license by the Commissioner of Public Safety because the stop of his motor vehicle was unlawful.  The district court found that the stop of appellant’s vehicle was lawful because appellant’s slight crossing of line dividers and drifting within his own lane gave the police a reasonable and articulable suspicion that appellant was committing a traffic offense.  Because we conclude that the police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop appellant, we affirm. 

F A C T S

 

            On November 8, 2000, appellant Brett Richard Grosklags was driving his SUV southbound on the center lane of a state highway.  At approximately 1:00 a.m., state trooper Andrew Hentges noticed appellant’s SUV weaving within its own lane and its front and rear tires crossing the lane divider line without signaling.  Hentges observed appellant’s driving for a mile and a half; he saw the vehicle drift three more times within its own lane.  Hentges then initiated a traffic stop, which culminated in Hentges arresting appellant for DWI.[1]  Appellant’s drivers license was revoked when he failed a breath test.

            Appellant filed for judicial review, challenging the revocation on the grounds that Hentges did not have a reasonable basis to suspect that he was committing a traffic offense.  At the implied consent hearing, Hentges testified about appellant’s weaving and crossing lane divider lines, but conceded that appellant’s driving did not endanger other vehicles.  Weather reports from the night of appellant’s arrest show that it was windy and cold in several parts of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area.  But Hentges gave uncontroverted testimony that the highway was clear when he observed appellant’s driving.  The district court sustained the license revocation.  This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

 

Police officers may make limited investigatory stops if they can

articulate objective and specific facts that led them, during the course of their investigation, to reasonably suspect the particular person stopped was engaging in criminal activity.

 

Schuster v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 622 N.W.2d 844, 846 (Minn. App. 2001) (citing Terry v. State of Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 30, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880, 1884 (1968)).  We review de novo the question of reasonable suspicion for a limited investigatory stop.  State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (Minn. 2000).  We review findings of fact for clear error, “giving due weight to the inferences drawn from those facts by the district court.”  Id.  (citation omitted).  We review the “events surrounding the stop and consider the totality of the circumstances * * *.”  Id.

            The district court found the stop valid because Hentges observed appellant violate three traffic laws and appellant’s drifting gave Hentges a “reasonable articulable suspicion to believe that [appellant] might be committing DWI, Minn. Stat. § 169.121 (2000), or careless driving, Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (2000).”

            A violation of any traffic law, however insignificant, provides the objective basis also needed to stop a vehicle.  State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997).  The district court found that Hentges observed appellant commit three traffic violations:  (1) failure to drive on the right half of the roadway in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 169.18, subd. 1 (2000); (2) failure to drive as nearly as practicable within a single lane in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a) (2000); and (3) failure to signal lane changes in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 4 (2000). 

            Appellant relies heavily on weather reports from that evening to support his claim that it was not practicable for him to drive in a perfectly straight line and that the weather conditions caused him to drift.  But Hentges testified that weather was not a factor when he stopped and arrested appellant.  The district court’s finding that the weather did not affect appellant’s driving is not clearly erroneous. 

Appellant argues that the movements of his vehicle were not traffic violations because he drifted only slightly and did not place other drivers in danger.  This argument is unsupported by Minnesota law.  Minnesota courts have found that a driver need not place others in danger to commit a traffic violation.  In State v. Bissonette, 445 N.W.2d 843 (Minn. App. 1989), this court held that changing lanes without signaling was a traffic violation even if a lane change could be made safely.  Id. at 846; see also Gerding v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 628 N.W.2d 197, 200-01 (Minn. 2001) (driving with an object in the rear view mirror is a traffic offense that supports a stop even if that object does not obstruct the driver’s vision), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2001).  However minor appellant’s traffic violations, they provided Hentges with the requisite articulable suspicion of criminal activity.

Appellant’s driving also gave Hentges reasonable and articulable suspicion that appellant was engaged in more serious criminal activity, to-wit, careless driving or driving under the influence.  Appellant cites cases from other jurisdictions holding that drifting within one’s own lane and slightly crossing a divider line does not support a traffic stop.  Again, appellant’s argument is not supported by Minnesota caselaw.  Klotz v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 437 N.W.2d 663 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. May 24, 1989) holds that “[t]he factual basis required to support a stop is minimal” and that the police do not need to observe an actual violation of the law.  Id. at 665.  Police cannot stop a person on a mere whim, but they may make assessments and draw inferences based on training and experience that would elude an untrained individual.  Id.

Appellant’s driving involved more than one instance of lane drifting.  Hentges first observed appellant’s vehicle drift in its own lane; then he saw appellant’s wheels cross both the right and the left lane divider lines; then he watched appellant’s vehicle drift in its own lane three additional times before making the stop.  This activity occurred within the span of a mile and a half.  The district court found Hentges’s testimony credible.  Thus, objective facts show that the stop was not based on a whim, but rather a reasonable and articulable belief that appellant was committing a traffic offense.  See State v. Richardson, 622 N.W.2d 823, 825-26 (Minn. 2001) (crossing the fog line gave the officer reasonable suspicion of careless driving and driving under the influence); State v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1983) (weaving in own lane can support a traffic stop); State v. Dalos, ___ N.W.2d ___ (Minn. App. Nov. 6, 2001) (same); see also State v. Battleson, 567 N.W.2d 69, 71 (Minn. App. 1997) (driving partly on lane and partly on shoulder gives a reasonable suspicion of careless driving). 

We conclude that the district court correctly sustained the commissioner’s revocation of appellant’s drivers license. 

            Affirmed.

           



[1] Appellant challenges only the stop; he does not challenge the arrest.