This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Jermaine Anthony Taylor,
Filed November 10, 2003
Nicollet County District Court
File No. K902437
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Michael K. Riley, Sr., Nicollet County Attorney, Jerold M. Lucas, Chief Deputy County Attorney, Kelley M. Riley, Assistant County Attorney, P.O. Box 360, 326 South Minnesota Avenue, St. Peter, MN 56082 (for respondent)
Paul E. Grabitske, Eskens, Gibson & Behm Law Firm, Chtd., 115 East Hickory Street, Suite 200, P.O. Box 1056, Mankato, MN 56002-1056 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.
Appellant Jermaine Anthony Taylor was convicted of the misdemeanor offenses of driving after suspension and obstructing legal process. On appeal, he challenges the district court’s denial of his motions to suppress evidence and to dismiss the charges, arguing that he was subject to an unconstitutional seizure in violation of Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution.
Although we conclude a seizure occurred, we also conclude that the seizure was not in violation of the Minnesota Constitution. Accordingly, we affirm.
At approximately 11 p.m. on July 1, 2002, North Mankato Police Officer Chris Hendrickson observed a motor vehicle driven by Taylor enter a private apartment parking lot. At trial, Taylor testified that he parked in the handicap-parking zone, but Hendrickson testified, and the district court found, that Taylor parked directly adjacent to the handicap-parking zone, in an area designated as no parking by yellow lines.
Hendrickson testified that he routinely received complaints from an apartment resident about people parking in the handicap-parking zone or the adjacent no-parking area. Hendrickson testified, and the district court found, that when someone parks in the no-parking area, the resident is deprived of a place to park.
Although the district court did not make a specific finding on the issue, we conclude from the court’s findings that the area where Taylor parked is designated as no-parking in order to give disabled persons access to a vehicle parked in the adjacent handicap-parking zone. Thus, when Taylor parked in the no-parking area, he “obstruct[ed] access to a parking space designated and reserved for the physically disabled,” in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.346, subd. 1(1) (2002). Minnesota law authorizes law enforcement officers to tag vehicles that park in or obstruct access to handicap-parking spaces, whether on public or private property. Minn. Stat. § 169.346, subd. 3.
After observing Taylor park in the no-parking area, Hendrickson parked his squad car behind Taylor’s vehicle, blocking it in. Hendrickson approached Taylor’s vehicle with the intention, the court found, of asking Taylor to move his vehicle and not for the purpose of locating evidence of a crime. As he approached Taylor’s vehicle, Hendrickson detected the odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. At that point, Hendrickson requested Taylor produce some identification. Taylor failed to produce a driver’s license and gave several incorrect names and birth dates before finally identifying himself. After discovering that Taylor had several warrants out for his arrest and that Taylor’s driver’s license had been suspended, Hendrickson arrested Taylor. As the squad car was leaving the apartment parking lot, Taylor escaped from the back of the car, but was soon apprehended.
Taylor was charged with driving with a suspended license, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (2002), obstructing legal process, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (2002), giving a false name and birth date to a peace officer, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.506, subd. 2, and escape from custody, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.485, subd. 2(1). Following a contested omnibus hearing, the district court denied Taylor’s motions to suppress and to dismiss. The state dismissed the charges of giving a false name and birth date, and escape from custody. Pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980), the case was submitted on stipulated facts, and Taylor was convicted of the remaining charges of obstructing legal process and driving with a suspended license.
When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, this court independently reviews the facts and determines, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing or not suppressing evidence. State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).
Taylor contends that he was unlawfully seized when Officer Hendrickson parked his squad car in such a way as to block in Taylor’s vehicle. Like the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Seizure occurs “when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.” In re E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 781(Minn. 1993) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1879 n.16 (1968)). Under the Minnesota Constitution, a person has been seized if, in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would believe 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). Thus, the first issue we address is whether the officer’s actions amounted to a seizure of Taylor.
Not all encounters between the police and citizens constitute seizures. In re E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d at 781. A person is generally not seized merely because a police officer approaches him or her in a public place or in a parked car and begins to ask questions. Harris, 590 N.W.2d at 98. “Moreover, seizure does not result when a person, due to some moral and instinctive pressures to cooperate, complies with a request to search because the other person to the encounter is a police officer.” Id. at 99 (quotation omitted).
But the blocking in of a vehicle by a police squad car generally constitutes a seizure. See Klotz v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 437 N.W.2d 663, 665 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. May 24, 1989) (holding seizure occurred where state trooper partially blocked in defendant’s vehicle with squad car and instructed defendant to stop and identify himself); State v. Sanger, 420 N.W.2d 241, 243 (Minn. App. 1988) (holding seizure occurred where police officer boxed in defendant’s vehicle with squad car, activated flashing red lights, and sounded horn). But see Erickson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 415 N.W.2d 698, 701 (Minn. App. 1987) (concluding a seizure did not occur when two police officers inadvertently blocked in defendant’s vehicle in an effort to park as near to building as possible).
Here, Officer Hendrickson blocked in Taylor’s vehicle in such a way that Taylor was unable to drive away. Under the circumstances, a reasonable person would not feel free to terminate the encounter. We conclude that Hendrickson seized Taylor when he blocked in Taylor’s vehicle with his squad car and approached Taylor.
The second issue we address is whether Hendrickson’s seizure of Taylor was unreasonable. A seizure is unlawful only if it is unreasonable. A brief seizure of a person for investigatory purposes is not unreasonable if an officer has a “particular and objective basis for suspecting the particular person . . . [seized] of criminal activity.” State v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 824, 825 (Minn. 1989). “All that is required is that the stop be not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.” Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (citations omitted).
In general, a police officer who merely has reasonable suspicion that a parking violation has occurred cannot seize an individual for the purpose of investigation. State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181, 185 (Minn. 1997). But a police officer can stop a person suspected of committing a parking violation if the stop “is necessary to enforce the violation . . . .” Id. The Holmes court explained, for example, that where a person is attempting to drive off with an illegally parked car before the officer can issue the ticket, the officer could properly seize the person to enforce the violation. Id. But the Holmes court did not state that this was the only instance where an officer may seize a driver to enforce a parking violation. See id.
Here, the evidence is undisputed and the district court found that Officer Hendrickson’s sole purpose in approaching Taylor was to get Taylor to move his vehicle. The fact that Hendrickson blocked Taylor’s car, preventing Taylor from leaving, is not inconsistent with the court’s finding. It is reasonable for a police officer to ensure that a driver will not suddenly drive off as the officer approaches the car. We note, in this connection, that Taylor attempted to escape from the squad car. Under Minn. Stat. § 169.346, subd. 3, law enforcement officials are authorized to enforce parking violations related to handicap-parking spaces on public and private property. Hendrickson’s initial intrusion¾approaching Taylor’s car to ask Taylor to move¾was minimal. We conclude that when Officer Hendrickson blocked in Taylor’s vehicle and approached Taylor, Hendrickson was enforcing the violation, as contemplated by Holmes,and that his seizure of Taylor was not unreasonable.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.