This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Filed May 11, 2004
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Steele County District Court
Douglas L. Ruth, Steele County Attorney, Scott L. Schreiner, Assistant County Attorney, 303 South Cedar, Owatonna, MN 55060 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Schumacher, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Percy Edwards appeals from a court trial conducted pursuant to the procedures set out in Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 3. He argues that because the evidence against him was obtained after the justification for the traffic stop had been dispelled the police did not have a valid basis to continue the stop, and the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence. We affirm.
In November 2001, Officer Jeffrey Mundale observed a Chevrolet Lumina driving on the streets of Owatonna. Mundale believed the driver was Julia Ayers/Whitaker, whom he knew was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant. Mundale activated his overhead lights and stopped the vehicle. Mundale approached the car and asked the driver to step out.
Mundale asked the driver if she was Ayers/Whitaker. The driver responded no, she was Julie Bush. Bush also provided Mundale with her "driver's license" to confirm her identity. When Mundale heard the driver's name he "recalled having a contact with her at a different time for a traffic violation." Bush's previous traffic violation was for driving after revocation and Mundale suspected her license was still revoked.
Before Mundale returned to his squad car to verify his suspicion about Bush's license, he asked Bush the name of her passenger. Bush initially said his name was "Irt." When Mundale asked for the passenger's real name, she responded, "Percy." Mundale asked if the passenger's full name was Percy Edwards. Bush confirmed the passenger's name was Percy Edwards. Mundale observed that Edwards was nervous, and Mundale was aware that the police department had had contacts with Edwards in the past such that, "It's suspicious to us. Maybe we should run a warrant check."
Once in his car, Mundale called in Edwards's name to get additional information so that he could run a warrant check. Then Mundale checked Bush's driving status and learned her license was still revoked. Contemporaneously, Mundale ran a warrant check on Edwards and learned there was a warrant out for his arrest.
Mundale and another officer who had arrived at the scene placed Edwards under arrest pursuant to the outstanding warrant. Mundale then searched Edwards incident to the arrest and found packages containing what was later determined to be 136 grams of marijuana on his person.
Edwards was charged with controlled substance crime in the fifth degree under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (2000). Edwards moved to have the charge against him dismissed, arguing the only evidence against him was discovered after the justification for the stop had been dispelled. The district court denied Edwards' motion, and a trial on the stipulated facts was held. The court found Edwards guilty of fifth-degree controlled substance crime. The court sentenced Edwards to a 19-month commitment to the commissioner of corrections pursuant to Edwards' request that he receive an executed sentence to run concurrent with a 129-month sentence he was already serving.
1. Edwards argues the district court erred when it determined he was not unlawfully detained and denied his motion to suppress the evidence. "When reviewing a pretrial order denying a motion to suppress evidence, [this court] may independently review the facts and determine whether the district court erred in not suppressing the evidence as a matter of law." State v. McBride, 666 N.W.2d 351, 360 (Minn. 2003). The legality of a limited investigatory search and reasonable suspicion are questions of law, which are reviewed de novo. State v. Waddell, 655 N.W.2d 803, 809 (Minn. 2003).
It is well-settled law that the United States and Minnesota constitutions allow a limited investigatory stop when the detaining officer has a "particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity." United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981); Waddell, 655 N.W.2d at 809. "A brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, a lesser quantum of proof than probable cause." Waddell, 655 N.W.2d at 809.
Here, it is uncontested that Edwards was seized when the police stopped the vehicle in which he was a passenger, that the initial stop was legal, and that Edwards continued to be detained after the suspicion that justified the initial stop was dispelled. The scope and duration of a traffic-stop investigation is limited to what is necessary to dispel the suspicion of criminal activity that justified the stop. State v. Fort, 660 N.W.2d 415, 418 (Minn. 2003). But the scope and/or duration of the stop can be expanded when the police acquire reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity during the investigation. Id. at 419.
Reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity requires the police to show that the expansion "was not the product of mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity, but was based upon 'specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.'" State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)). In considering whether police had reasonable suspicion, this court considers the totality of the circumstances and "acknowledge[s] that trained law enforcement officers are permitted to make inferences and deductions that would be beyond the competence of an untrained person." State v. Richardson, 622 N.W.2d 823, 825 (Minn. 2001).
Here, Mundale testified that when the driver told him her name he recalled having prior contact with Bush for driving after revocation and suspected her license was still revoked. The supreme court has concluded that information regarding a person's license status that is "a month or more old" can provide the basis to briefly detain the driver to determine if the person has a valid license. City of St. Paul v. Vaughn, 306 Minn. 337, 340, 237 N.W.2d 365, 368 (1975). Although Bush's prior violation of driving after revocation occurred five months earlier, the investigation of Bush's license was still based on a rational inference Mundale was allowed to draw based on his knowledge of Bush's prior traffic violation and was not the product of mere whim. Thus, Mundale was permitted to conduct a search of sufficient duration and scope to determine whether she had a valid license. See Fort, 660 N.W.2d at 418.
Edwards also argues Mundale impermissibly expanded the scope of Bush's license check when he asked Bush for her passenger's name and then ran a warrant check on the passenger. But the crux of fourth amendment and article I section 10 protections is to prevent unreasonable government intrusion. See State v. Wiegand, 645 N.W.2d 125, 136 (Minn. 2002) (construing "reasonableness" requirement of both provisions); State v. Ferrise, 269 N.W.2d 888, 891 (Minn. 1978) (stating "test is the reasonableness of the intrusion under all the circumstances, and . . . minimal intrusion was completely reasonable and proper").
We conclude that when a police officer asks a driver for the name of his or her passenger during a legal traffic-stop investigation and runs a warrant check contemporaneously to a check of the driver's driving privileges, any invasion into the passenger's privacy is so minimal that the actions do not offend either the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution or article I section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution. We note that while the supreme court's decisions in Wiegand and Fort require police officers to acquire reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity before expanding the scope or duration of a traffic stop, we do not read these opinions to require reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity for what is, at the most, only a trivial expansion of the scope and duration of this stop.
We also note that once Mundale learned Edwards' identity, he had a reasonable suspicion that an outstanding warrant for Edwards' arrest might exist based on his knowledge of Edwards' prior police contacts and Edwards' nervous demeanor. But cf. State v. Syhavong, 661 N.W.2d 278, 282 (Minn. App. 2003) (stating "nervousness is not sufficient by itself") (emphasis added).