This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







State of Minnesota,





Jeffrey Mark Tschida,




Filed July 23, 2002

Foley, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K001600799



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


Shari A. Jacobus, Kari L. Lillesand, Jensen, Bell, Converse & Erickson, P.A., 1500 Minnesota World Trade Center, 30 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)


Rodd A. Tschida, 1814 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55105 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

FOLEY, Judge

            Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s pretrial order suppressing evidence and dismissing the complaint charging respondent Jeffrey Mark Tschida with gross misdemeanor obstruction of legal process and disobeying a police order.  Because the district court did not err in holding that the police lacked an objective basis to believe that Tschida was involved in criminal activity and were therefore not justified in seizing him, we affirm.


            On June 17, 2001, the Roseville Police Department received a call from a clerk at the Motel 6 located at 2300 Cleveland Avenue, requesting that they check a vehicle parked in the motel’s parking lot.  Officers Lentsch and Baker were dispatched to the motel.  The dispatcher provided the officers with the following information:  (1) the description and location of the vehicle; (2) the clerk’s description of the vehicle as “suspicious”; (3) the number of occupants (two people); and (4) the occupants’ presence in the parking lot for “a while,” during which they were just sitting in the vehicle.  In his statement, Officer Lentsch mentioned that “the Motel 6 has had numerous police calls in the past ranging from fights to drug dealing.”

            When the officers arrived at the Motel 6, they saw the vehicle described by the clerk.  As the officers exited their squad cars, the two occupants of the parked vehicle, later identified as respondent Jeffrey Mark Tschida and Michelle Marie Hakala, were exiting their vehicle.  Officer Lentsch advised them to return to their vehicles; Hakala followed the orders, but Tschida did not.  Officer Lentsch instructed Tschida a second time to remain in the vehicle, and he complied with the order.

            Officer Lentsch asked Tschida if he had identification.  Tschida indicated that he did and put both hands in his pockets as if he were searching for his I.D.  Because the officer did not see his hands moving in his pockets, he asked Tschida if he had found his I.D.  Tschida told Officer Lentsch that he had left his license at his friend’s home. 

            Officer Lentsch observed that Tschida’s speech was slurred, his eyes were watery and bloodshot, and he also smelled alcohol on Tschida’s breath.  At this point, Officer Lentsch asked Tschida to exit the vehicle and remove his hands from his pockets.  After two requests, Tschida finally exited his vehicle but refused to remove his hands from his pockets.  Officer Lentsch advised Tschida two more times to remove his hands from his pockets and when he did not comply, the officer placed Tschida against his car, pulled his right hand from his pocket, and placed it behind his back.

            Because Tschida tried to pull away from him, Officer Lentsch took Tschida to the back of his squad car and instructed Tschida that he just wanted to find out why he and Hakala were in the parking lot.  Officer Lentsch was in the process of conducting an investigatory pat search when Tschida broke free and began to run through the parking lot.  Officer Baker, who was assisting Officer Lentsch, grabbed Tschida and after a long struggle, maced and handcuffed him. 

            Tschida apologized several times for his behavior.  A search of the vehicle occupied by Tschida revealed nothing illegal.

            Tschida was charged with gross misdemeanor obstruction of legal process and disobeying a police order.  On January 19, 2002, Tschida filed a motion to suppress evidence.  On March 15 the district court issued an order granting the motion.  This appeal followed.


            When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress, this court independently reviews the facts and determines, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing the evidence.  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).

            Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.  U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.  There is an adequate basis for the seizure if the officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person was involved in criminal activity.  Norman v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 409 N.W.2d 544, 545 (Minn. 1987).   

            Officers may make their assessment on the basis of all of the relevant circumstances, drawing on inferences and making deductions that “might elude an untrained person.”  Holm v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety,416 N.W.2d 473, 474 (Minn. App. 1987).

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. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 402 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Minn. 1987).

            In reviewing a district court’s determination of the legality of a limited investigatory stop, we review questions of reasonable suspicion de novo.  State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 135 (Minn. 1999).

            The district court ruled that Officers Lentsch and Baker were not justified in seizing Tschida because they did not have an objective basis for suspecting he was involved in criminal activity while parked in the parking lot of a Motel 6.  The state challenges this ruling and claims that the police officers were able to suspect criminal activity was afoot based on the following information:  (1) the motel was in an area known for criminal activity; (2) the two occupants sat in their parked vehicle for 40-60 minutes in spite of a posted sign stating that unregistered vehicles would be towed; (3) neither occupant made any attempt to register at the motel; and (4) the occupants immediately tried to flee once the police arrived on the scene.  The state’s claim is without merit.

            Mere presence in a high-crime area is not enough to justify a stop.  Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 52, 99 S. Ct. 2637, 2641 (1979).  However, when this factor is combined with other incriminating factors, it can justify a stop. See State v. Dickerson, 481 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 1992) (“defendant’s evasive conduct after eye contact with police, combined with his departure from a building with a history of drug activity, justified police in reasonably suspecting criminal activity”).  Here, there were no additional incriminating factors.

            The only information the motel clerk provided to the police dispatcher was that there was a “suspicious” vehicle with two occupants inside parked in the parking lot, that it had been there for “a while,” and that it was not registered to a motel guest.  There is no evidence in the record that the clerk or officers observed or suspected criminal activity in the vehicle occupied by Tschida.  Cf. City of Minnetonka v. Shepherd, 420 N.W.2d 887, 890 (Minn. 1988) (upholding investigatory stop where gas station attendant called police and stated that he observed drunk person driving out of station); Olmscheid v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 412 N.W.2d 41, 42-43 (Minn. App. 1987) (upholding investigatory stop where police officer did not observe illegal activity or driving conduct but spotted defendant on dead-end street behind business after hours and thought car might be involved in property theft), review denied (Minn. Nov. 6, 1987).  The clerk only stated that the vehicle was “suspicious,” but she did not indicate what made the vehicle or its occupants “suspicious.”  Similarly, the officers did not offer any testimony or statements indicating that they observed or suspected illegal activity inside the vehicle when they arrived at the motel parking lot.

            In addition, the clerk’s statement to the dispatcher that the vehicle had been parked “a while” was vague and did not indicate to the officers that it was parked for an unusually long time.  While the state claims that the officers were aware that the vehicle had been parked 40-60 minutes, this information was in a statement made by the clerk after the call to the police and, therefore, the officers could not have considered this information when deciding to seize Tschida.  See Wold v. State, 430 N.W.2d 171, 175 (Minn. 1988) (stating that determination of officer’s reasonableness in seizing individual is based on objective facts available to officer at time of seizure). 

            A vehicle is not necessarily involved in criminal activity because it is parked in a parking lot.  While, there is some dispute as to whether there were signs indicating that parked cars not registered to guests would be towed, even if these signs were present and Tschida saw them, sitting in an illegally parked car is not a criminal violation, does not suggest that its occupants are involved in criminal activity, and does not justify a seizure. See, e.g., State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181, 185 (Minn. 1997) (holding that police officer who merely has reasonable suspicion that parking violation has occurred cannot seize individual for purpose of investigation).

            Finally, there is no evidence in the record that Tschida and Hakala tried to “flee” from the officers.  Rather, Officers Lentsch and Baker only note in their statements that Tschida and Hakala exited the vehicle at the same time the officers were exiting their squad cars.  The officers never stated that Tschida and Hakala attempted to flee, or for that matter, that they were walking or acting in an unusual manner or one consistent with fleeing.

            The information available to the officers at the time of Tschida’s arrest was not sufficient to provide them with a particular and objective basis for suspecting criminal activity was afoot.  Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that the seizure was invalid, and thus suppressing the evidence.  See Norman, 409 N.W.2d at 545 (stating that where officer asked appellant to sit in car, action constituted justified seizure only if officer had particularized and objective basis for suspecting criminal activity).



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.