STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Daniel E. Ameluxen, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Wright County District Court
File No. C2021173
Rodd A. Tschida, Thomas E. Bauer & Associates, 14225 Highway 55, Plymouth, MN 55447 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Melissa J. Eberhart, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Wright, Judge.
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
Appellant challenges the district court’s order sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license under the implied-consent law. He contends that the arresting officer did not have jurisdiction or the legal basis necessary to make a traffic stop as either a law-enforcement officer or a private citizen. Because the officer acted within the scope of his employment and had reasonable, articulable suspicion to make an investigatory stop, we affirm.
Benjamin Anderson is a police officer for West Hennepin Public Safety in Hennepin County, comprising the cities of Maple Plain and Independence. On March 15, 2002, at 6:12 p.m., an off-duty police officer, Sergeant Boelter, called Anderson on his patrol car cell phone and said he had received a call from a citizen regarding a suspected drunk driver. Boelter gave a description of the car and the first three letters and the first number of the license plate. Boelter continued to talk with Anderson via the cell phone and follow the driver. Boelter also reported that he had to swerve when the car almost struck his car in a parking lot. He asked Anderson to respond to the area where the vehicle was last seen traveling toward Independence.
While outside the boundaries of West Hennepin Public Safety, Anderson saw and identified the car that Boelter had described. Anderson followed the car and noticed that it appeared to be “going at least 40” in a 30 miles-per-hour speed zone. When the driver, Daniel Ameluxen, pulled into his driveway, Anderson stopped behind him with his emergency lights on. After talking with Ameluxen and giving him a preliminary breath test that registered over the legal limit, Anderson placed him under arrest for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Ameluxen gave a breath sample that showed an alcohol concentration above 0.10. The commissioner revoked his driver’s license.
At the implied-consent hearing, the district court concluded that there was a sufficient legal basis for the stop under Minn. Stat. § 629.37 (2000), and that as a private citizen Anderson had jurisdiction to make the arrest. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Ameluxen argues that Anderson had no jurisdictional authority to make the stop because, as a police officer, he was acting outside his territorial jurisdiction and, as a private citizen, he did not have probable cause to believe a public offense had occurred in his presence. This court reviews jurisdictional questions de novo. State v. LaRose, 543 N.W.2d 426, 427 (Minn. App. 1996).
The district court concluded that Anderson’s stop fell within the authority of Minn. Stat. § 629.37 (2002), which allows a private person to “arrest” another for a public offense committed in the person’s presence. Ameluxen contends that a stop under that statute requires probable cause that a public offense was committed and that Anderson lacked probable cause. Ameluxen points out that the district court concluded only that Anderson had “a reasonable and articulable basis for the stop.”
We need not decide the applicability of Minn. Stat. § 629.37 because Anderson had jurisdictional authority to make the stop under Minn. Stat. § 629.40, which provides that a peace officer may arrest outside his territorial jurisdiction if he is acting within the “course and scope of employment.” See Minn. Stat. § 629.40, subd. 3 (2000). The meaning of “course and scope of employment” is a question of statutory interpretation and a legal issue that we review de novo. State v. Meyer, 641 N.W.2d 324, 326 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. May 14, 2002).
Off-duty officer Boelter observed that a suspected drunken driver was traveling in the direction of Independence. Boelter notified on-duty Independence police officer Anderson of his observations. Anderson then drove outside his territorial jurisdiction, located the car, concluded that it was speeding, and stopped it as it entered a residential driveway. It is reasonably indisputable that any degree of travel by an alcohol-impaired driver creates a public-safety hazard. It is equally indisputable that one function of a police officer’s duty is to curtail activity that endangers public safety. Here, Anderson responded to an off-duty officer’s request for the performance of a law-enforcement function. Because enforcement of traffic laws is, in part, what police officers do and what they have a duty to do, Anderson was acting properly within the course and scope of his law-enforcement employment when he followed and stopped Ameluxen’s car.
Our courts have repeatedly held that out-of-jurisdiction police stops are authorized when proper circumstances exist. See State v. Tilleskjor, 491 N.W.2d 893, 894 (Minn. 1992) (holding that a peace officer may arrest anywhere within the state under certain circumstances, including when observed activity may be outside of the officer’s jurisdiction if he is acting within the scope and course of his employment); Meyer, 641 N.W.2d at 327-28 (holding that an officer acted within the course and scope of his duty when he acts in furtherance of his employer’s interest and that an employee is not constrainedto choose among various options for carrying out his employment functions); State v. Bunde, 556 N.W.2d 917, 919 (Minn. App. 1996) (holding that an officer acted within the course and scope of his employment when he arrested defendant, even though he was outside of his municipality at the time and his mission was also commenced outside that jurisdiction).
Validity of the stop
A police officer may not stop a moving motor vehicle without a specific, articulable suspicion of a violation of the law. Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W. 2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980). The factual basis necessary for a lawful traffic stop is minimal and need not necessarily arise from the officer’s personal observations. Id. Even a minor traffic violation can support an investigatory stop. State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997).
Anderson testified that Ameluxen was “going faster than 30 miles an hour” and that he “was going at least 40.” At one point Anderson also testified that “the vehicle was traveling about 30 * * *.” Ameluxen argues that Anderson’s testimony was contradictory and that mathematical calculations would place Ameluxen’s speed at an average between 20 to 30 miles per hour. Ameluxen argues that Anderson’s testimony does not show a valid basis for the stop.
We note first that the record shows no objection by Ameluxen to Anderson’s testimony as to speed. Thus, any error in the admission of that testimony is waived. See Minn. R. Evid. 103(a)(1); State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 363 (Minn. 1999) (holding that failure to object to admission of evidence generally constitutes waiver regarding that issue on appeal).
Even absent waiver, this court will not reverse the district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. Thompson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 567 N.W.2d 280, 281 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 1997). The district court found that Ameluxen was traveling “approximately 40 miles per hour” in a 30 miles-per-hour zone. In so finding, the court necessarily believed Anderson’s testimony. The credibility of witnesses is a determination uniquely within the province of the district court. See State v. Obasi, 427 N.W.2d 736, 738 (Minn. App. 1988) (stating that credibility determinations are for the finder of fact and should not be disturbed on appeal). Inconsistencies in evidence will ordinarily not support a claim of reversible error. State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980).
The district court’s finding that Ameluxen was speeding and that the officer had a lawful reason to stop him for that offense was not clearly erroneous.