This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Natalie Diane Voss,
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. T9-03-3280
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Eileen Wells, Mankato City Attorney, Christopher D. Cain, Linda B. Hilligoss, Assistant City Attorneys, 10 Civic Center Plaza, P.O. Box 3368, Mankato, MN 56002-3368 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, James D. Fleming, Chief Public Defender, 2070 Mankato Place, P.O. Box 1059, Mankato, MN 56002-1059 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Natalie Voss challenges the investigatory stop of her vehicle, arguing that the police officer did not have a reasonable basis for the stop. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
This court reviews whether an investigatory stop or seizure is lawful as a mixed question of law and fact. Berge v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732-33 (Minn. 1985). When the facts are not in dispute, an appellate court should analyze the officer’s testimony and “determine whether, as a matter of law, his observations provided an adequate basis for the stop.” State v. Waddell, 655 N.W.2d 803, 809 (Minn. 2003).
A police officer may lawfully make a limited investigatory stop of an individual if the officer is “able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181, 184 (Minn. 1997) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)).
Here, the officer testified that he watched appellant begin to leave a parking lot located near two bars, close to the time of night that bars closed and patrons were leaving the area. To leave the parking lot, it was necessary to turn either right or left. Instead, the officer stated that appellant pulled her vehicle straight ahead, until both front wheels were touching the curb. After waiting approximately a minute, appellant backed up and turned left toward the exit of the parking lot. Reaching the exit to the street, appellant signaled a left turn, which would have put her the wrong way in one-way traffic. After eight to ten seconds, appellant corrected the signal and turned right into the street. At that point, the officer suspected that appellant might be driving while impaired and initiated a stop of her vehicle.
Appellant presented evidence to the district court establishing a noncriminal reason for her driving behavior—namely that she was waiting for a friend in another vehicle to follow her. But viewed in light of the circumstances as a whole, even innocent activity might justify the suspicion of criminal activity. United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 9, 109 S. Ct. 1581, 1586 (1989) (concluding that a number of factors, although individually consistent with innocent travel, amounted to reasonable suspicion when taken together). Here, the officer observed appellant’s unusual driving behavior shortly after bar closing time, in a parking lot in close proximity to two bars. Based on his ten years of law-enforcement experience, and specific and articulable facts, the officer suspected that appellant might be driving while impaired. On this record, we cannot say the officer’s decision to make an investigatory stop of appellant’s vehicle violated her constitutional rights. And because the district court properly determined that the stop was lawful, the court did not err in denying appellant’s motion to suppress.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.