This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Jeffrey Mark Tschida,
Filed July 23, 2002
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.
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.