This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Patricia Elaine Maron,
Reversed and remanded
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Aitkin County District Court
File No. K101560
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 102 Capitol Building, 75 Constitution Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55155; and
Bradley C. Rhodes, Aitkin County Attorney, Lisa Roggenkamp Rakotz, Senior Assistant County Attorney, 209 Second Street N.W., Aitkin, MN 56431 (for appellant)
Cynthia J. Vermeulen, Vermeulen Law Office, 11 North 7th Avenue, Suite 100, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for respondent)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
The state challenges the district court’s pretrial order suppressing evidence supporting the stop and arrest of respondent for driving while under the influence. The district court suppressed the evidence because the information provided by a citizen’s tip was insufficient to justify the stop. We reverse the pretrial order and remand for further proceedings because the information provided by the citizen informant was sufficient to justify the stop.
On August 18, 2001, the Aitkin police department received a dispatch report of a possible drunk driver. The informant provided the vehicle’s license number, a description of the vehicle, as well as the location and the direction in which the vehicle was traveling. The informant, who gave his own name and phone number, stated that the basis for the belief that the driver was drunk was that the driver was going over the centerline and going “in and out of traffic.”
The dispatcher conducted a license-plate check and learned the make and year of the offending vehicle, which correlated with the informant’s information. The dispatcher relayed the information to Officer Catlin, who was on foot patrol in Aitkin.
The officer observed the offending vehicle approach a stoplight at an intersection. Respondent Patricia Maron was driving. The officer waved her over and told her that he had received a report that her vehicle was being driven erratically. Respondent stated that she had not consumed alcohol, but the officer noticed respondent’s eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred.
The officer administered a PBT test, which revealed the presence of alcohol. Respondent was transported to the Aitkin County jail where the officer read to her the implied consent advisory. She agreed to provide a breath sample, which showed an alcohol concentration of .16. Respondent was charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1(1), 1(5) (2000).
Respondent moved to suppress the evidence relating to the charges because it was obtained as the result of an unlawful stop. The district court suppressed all evidence obtained as a result of the stop and dismissed the charges, concluding that the stop was unlawful because the identity of the informant was unknown at the time the stop was made, and because the officer had no independent articulable reason to support the stop. The state appeals, challenging the district court’s suppression and dismissal.
D E C I S I O N
When the state appeals from a pretrial order dismissing a criminal charge, we will reverse only if the state clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that the district court erred, and that the error, unless reversed, will have a critical impact on the outcome of the prosecution. State v. Lopez, 631 N.W.2d 810, 813 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 2001). When reviewing an appeal from a pretrial order suppressing evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing the evidence. Id. Critical impact is demonstrated when the district court’s order prevents the state from prosecuting the charge. See id. (the state demonstrated critical impact because the district court’s order prevents it from prosecuting the charge against defendant).
The suppression of the evidence will have a critical impact on this case because there is no evidence left upon which the state may prosecute respondent. Thus, we will consider whether the district court erred in suppressing the evidence and dismissing the charges.
A police officer may not stop a vehicle without a specific and articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Rose v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 637 N.W.2d 326, 328 (Minn. App. 2001). However, “the factual basis needed to make a routine traffic stop is minimal and need not arise from an officer’s personal observations.” Id. A factual basis may be supplied by information acquired from someone else, including an informant. Id.
This court has focused on two factors in cases involving traffic stops based on informant tips: (1) the existence of information identifying the informant; and (2) the facts supporting the informant’s assertion that a driver is under the influence. Id.
Neither factor is separately dispositive, and the determination whether the officer had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity at the time of the stop is based upon the totality of the circumstances.
“A private citizen who provides information relevant to the stop is presumed reliable.” Id. The purpose of the factor requiring some identifying information is that a presumption is raised that the informant is truthful in identifying himself if he provides sufficient information to locate him and hold him accountable for providing false information. Id.
Although the police dispatcher knew the informant’s name and telephone number from the outset of the report, the arresting officer did not know the informant’s precise identity until after the arrest. Despite the fact that the officer did not have personal knowledge of the identity of the informant, under the collective-knowledge doctrine, all information known to the police force, including the dispatcher, is imputed to the arresting officer. See Groe v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 615 N.W.2d 837, 840 (Minn. App. 2000). Furthermore, the officer was able to observe the informant at the scene of the stop:
[A] motorist went by and kind of gave me a hand gesture. I don’t know if he was pointing at [respondent], kind of shaking [his] head, letting me know that is the right vehicle they had, then they drove by.
Despite the fact that the officer learned the informant’s name and telephone number after the stop took place, there was sufficient identifying information to fulfill the identification requirement because the officer could have located and held accountable the informant if the tip proved to be false. See State v. Davis, 393 N.W.2d 179, 181 (Minn. 1986) (brief face-to-face contact, in which the tipster reported to the officer as she was driving by that the offender ran a red light, was sufficient identification because the vehicle’s identity could be easily traced); Jobe v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 609 N.W.2d 919, 922 (Minn. App. 2000) (finding tip reliable because informant provided location and direction of travel, and specific facts relating to basis for conclusion that offending driver was drunk, even though informant only provided name and could not be subsequently located).
If an officer does not notice any erratic driving or other activity justifying the stop, the informant’s tip “must provide at least some specific and articulable facts to support the bare allegation of criminal activity.” State v. Newgard, 392 N.W.2d 27, 29 (Minn. App. 1986) (quotation omitted). Information is credible if the informant obtained the information in a reliable way. State v. Warren, 404 N.W.2d 895, 896 (Minn. App. 1987). It is not necessarily important that the facts provided by the informant are minimally corroborated by the officer; rather, the focus is “on the fact that the informant had personally observed the alleged drunk driver.” Playle v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 439 N.W.2d 747, 749 (Minn. App. 1989).
Here, when the informant notified the police of “a possible drunk driver,” he also detailed the basis for this conclusion,
telling dispatch the party was going over the centerline, their driving conduct, I believe, put in report about the party that called in said [respondent’s] a hazard on the road.
The informant later clarified the basis for this conclusion, reporting that
[respondent] was going over the centerline, kind of going in and out of traffic. Dispatch told me that the caller said [respondent’s] a hazard out here with her driving conduct.
Although the informant reported that respondent was “possibly” a drunk driver, he gave specific facts to support this conclusion, which were based upon personal observation. The informant provided, and dispatch confirmed, the license-plate number and the make and model of the offending vehicle. Lastly, the officer saw the person who he believed to be the informant gesturing that the officer had pulled over the correct offending vehicle. See Davis, 393 N.W.2d at 181 (tip of informant who indicated that vehicle behind her just ran a red light as she was passing an officer, and provided no other information, was sufficient to justify the stop because “clearly,” the informant saw the driver run the red light); Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (unidentified trucker’s call to trooper regarding a tailgater was reliable because trucker’s reference to the location of the trooper’s car in relation to the offending vehicle allowed trooper to verify the location of the trucker); Jobe, 609 N.W.2d at 921 (finding that information regarding the description, location, and direction of the vehicle, reporting that the vehicle was “swerving around on the road,” and notifying dispatcher when officer was behind the offending vehicle, was sufficient to form reasonable basis for stop of the vehicle); Warren, 404 N.W.2d at 897 (concluding that, based on precedent, “a valid stop can be based on a reliable informant’s description of the vehicle, its location, a report of specific facts concerning criminal activity, and the officer’s confirmation of the description and location of the vehicle”). But see Olson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 371 N.W.2d 552, 556 (Minn. 1985) (anonymous tip of a “possible drunk driver,” with no indication whether the basis for this conclusion (“erratic driving”) was provided by tipster or embellishment by dispatcher, is insufficient to render stop valid); Rose, 637 N.W.2d at 329 (finding that there is no inference in the record that employee personally observed the offender, and no information in the record regarding how employee concluded the offender might be drunk; finding no minimal specific and articulable facts supporting the informant’s bald assertions); State v. Tiegen, 381 N.W.2d 529, 531 (Minn. App. 1986) (anonymous informant’s report of a “possible” drunk driver was not reliable because informant provided no facts to form the basis for reasonable suspicion). The informant provided sufficient information to permit a valid traffic stop of respondent’s vehicle.
Under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity at the time he stopped respondent’s vehicle, and the district court erred as a matter of law in suppressing the evidence and dismissing the charges. Because this error has a critical impact on the outcome of this case, we reverse the district court’s pretrial order and remand for further proceedings.
Reversed and remanded.