This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






State of Minnesota,





Charles Andrew Fietek,



Filed June 10, 2003


Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Isanti County District Court

File No. K9011317




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


Jeffrey R. Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, Stoney L. Hiljus, Chief Deputy Isanti County Attorney, 555 18th Avenue Southwest, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Steven P. Russett, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)




            Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.



U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




Appellant Charles Andrew Fietek challenges the district court’s order admitting evidence he alleges was obtained after an illegal seizure that occurred when he was asked to step out of his pickup truck.  Because the seizure was lawful, the district court did not err in allowing the evidence to be admitted.  Accordingly, we affirm.



During routine patrol, Sergeant James Johnson of the Isanti County Sheriff’s Department turned his squad car onto Highway 65 to travel north.  About a half block ahead, appellant Charles Fietek was driving his pickup truck in the same direction.  Almost immediately after Johnson entered the highway, Fietek activated his right turn signal even though, as Johnson observed, there was “almost a half a mile to go yet before he was able to turn right into anything.”

Fietek’s signal remained on until he turned, entering into a U-shaped cul-de-sac that provides access for four or five residences.  At that time, Johnson was curious why the driver was taking that route and suspected that the driver might have an outstanding warrant or an invalid license.  Johnson then checked the computer database and learned that Fietek was the registered owner of the truck and that he had a valid, but alcohol-restricted, driver’s license.

Within a minute, Fietek emerged from the cul-de-sac and drove past Johnson on Highway 65.  As Johnson accelerated to catch up to the truck, Fietek activated his right turn signal and turned, entering into a trailer court.  Johnson followed Fietek through the trailer court until he turned right, entering into a cul-de-sac.  Johnson stopped his squad car at the entrance to the cul-de-sac.

Three to four minutes later, Johnson drove into the cul-de-sac and noticed that Fietek’s pickup was parked with its front wheels on the grass of a trailer lot.  As Johnson drove toward the pickup, he saw Fietek sitting in the driver’s seat but “leaning toward the passenger side of the cab of the truck cab.”  Johnson noticed that Fietek was “peering over the dashboard,” and “[i]t was obvious to [him] that [the driver] was attempting to hide from [him] or duck down in the cab.”

Johnson walked to the truck and asked Fietek for his driver’s license.  Johnson learned Fietek’s identity, noticed that “[h]is eyes were blood shot and watery,” and asked him to step out of the truck.  When Fietek got out of the truck, his “balance was very poor,” and Johnson “could smell the odor of alcoholic beverage.”  Johnson tested Fietek’s breath-alcohol and then arrested him for driving while under the influence of alcohol.



When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing—or not suppressing—the evidence.


State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999) (citation omitted).  This court is bound by the district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.  State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (Minn. 2000). 

            The federal and state constitutions protect persons from unreasonable searches and seizures.  U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.  The state has the burden of proving that evidence was obtained consistent with this constitutional requirement.  State ex rel. Rasmussen v. Tahash, 272 Minn. 539, 554, 141 N.W.2d 3, 13-14 (1965). 

“The law differentiates between an investigatory stop of a moving vehicle and an investigation of a stopped vehicle.”  State v. Reese, 388 N.W.2d 421, 422 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Aug. 13, 1986).  Here, Johnson approached Fietek’s truck after it had been parked.  At no time did Johnson use his lights or siren, and Fietek admits Johnson’s actions did not cause him to stop or park.  The dispositive issue is whether Johnson illegally seized Fietek when he asked Fietek to step out of the truck.

Whether a seizure has occurred and, if so, whether the seizure was reasonable are issues of law that this court reviews de novo.  Harris, 590 N.W.2d at 98.  Courts have held that

[i]t is not a seizure for an officer to simply walk up and talk to a person standing in a public place or to a driver seated in an already stopped car.


Crawford v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 441 N.W.2d 837, 839 (Minn. App. 1989) (citation omitted).

It has been held that a seizure occurs when, considering all of the circumstances, “a reasonable person would have believed that he or she was neither free to disregard the police questions nor free to terminate the encounter.”  State v. Cripps, 533 N.W.2d 388, 391 (Minn. 1995) (citations omitted).  Here, a seizure occurred when Johnson requested identification and asked Fietek to get out of the vehicle.  See LaBeau v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 412 N.W.2d 777, 779 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that a seizure occurred when the police requested identification and asked the driver to get out of a vehicle). 

The next consideration is whether or not the seizure was reasonably warranted, thus making the seizure legal.

[I]f the officer requests identification and asks the driver to leave a vehicle, the officer mustbe able to point to specific and articulable facts which, together with reasonable inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion.


Id. (citations omitted).

Johnson was able to articulate specific facts that aroused his suspicion that Fietek might be engaged in illegal conduct.  The truck being registered in a city a considerable distance from where Johnson saw it; the timing of the turn signal; the turning into and back out of a cul-de-sac and then turning again at the very next opportunity; the slightly erratic parking in the trailer court; the driver’s “furtive movements” inside the cab of the truck; the alcohol-restricted driver’s license; and the driver’s bloodshot and watery eyes, were all circumstances Johnson observed before he requested identification and asked the driver to step out of the truck.

These circumstances collectively provided a reasonable inference that Fietek was engaged in activity violative of the law and reasonably warranted Johnson’s intrusion.  Thus, we hold that the seizure was legal and that the district court did not err in denying Fietek’s motion to suppress evidence.