This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Edward Joseph Stevenson, petitioner,


Commissioner of Public Safety,


Filed December 28, 2004


Peterson, Judge


McLeod County District Court

File No. C7031024


Richard L. Swanson, 1059 Stoughton Avenue, P.O. Box 85, Chaska, MN  55318 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Allen Y. Louie, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1800, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134 (for respondent)


Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            In this appeal from an order sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license, appellant argues that the investigative stop of his vehicle was unlawful.  We affirm.


            On June 13, 2003, Police Chief Michael Henrich was working at the admission gate of the Winstock Festival in Winsted.  Henrich saw a silver-gray jeep with an open top pull up and stop at the side of the road about 30 to 40 feet from the gate.  The occupants included a driver, a male front-seat passenger, and several male and female rear-seat passengers.  Henrich saw the front-seat passenger repeatedly reach under his seat, duck his head down, and drink from a container.  Henrich started walking toward the jeep to investigate when he saw the front-seat passenger stand up and momentarily hold up a silver-blue can that, based on Henrich’s experience, appeared to be a beer can.  Henrich had walked only four feet toward the jeep before it pulled away. An occupant in the back of the jeep remained standing as the jeep accelerated and traveled down a gravel road.

            Based on his belief that the front-seat passenger was possibly underage and consuming alcohol from an open beer container, and the driver’s careless driving conduct in leaving while a passenger was standing, Henrich radioed a complaint to dispatch. Henrich testified that while he could not be certain of the occupants’ ages from where he saw the jeep, they looked young enough that he would have carded them at the gate.

            Deputy Sheriff Gary Schott received a dispatch conveying a careless-driving complaint involving a silver-gray jeep with an open top.  A separate radio channel conveyed information that the occupants of the jeep may have been drinking alcohol, but there was no mention of possible underage consumption.  Schott was also informed that the jeep was traveling west toward campground C.  Schott positioned his squad car so that he could see the westbound flow of traffic.  As he waited, Schott spoke with two auxiliary police officers.  One of them told Schott that there was a jeep stopped directly behind the deputy’s squad car.  Schott looked in his rear-view mirror, saw an open top, silver-gray jeep with four individuals in it. Schott got out of his squad car and approached the jeep.  Schott told the driver that he had received a careless-driving complaint and asked him if he knew anything about that.  The driver did not respond.  Schott asked the driver for identification and asked him to get out of the jeep.  The driver was appellant Edward Joseph Stevenson.  Appellant was arrested for driving while impaired, and his driver’s license was later revoked pursuant to the implied-consent law.

            Appellant petitioned for judicial review of the revocation of his driver’s license, arguing that Schott did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop his vehicle. Appellant waived all other issues at the hearing that followed.  The district court found that Schott had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting appellant of criminal activity based on the information relayed to him by dispatch about Henrich’s observations and sustained the revocation of appellant’s driver’s license.  This appeal followed.


Appellant does not dispute the material facts found by the district court.[1]  When an appellate court reviews a stop based on given facts, the test is not whether the district court decision is clearly erroneous, but whether, as a matter of law, there was an adequate basis for the stop.  Berge v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985).  “Conclusions of law will be overturned only upon a determination that the trial court has erroneously construed and applied the law to the facts of the case.”  Dehn v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 394 N.W.2d 272, 273 (Minn. App. 1986) (citing Durfee v. Rod Baxter Imports, Inc., 262 N.W.2d 349 (Minn. 1977)).

 “A stop is lawful if the officer is able to articulate at the revocation hearing . . .  that he had a ‘particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular persons stopped of criminal activity.’”  Berge, 374 N.W.2d at 732 (emphasis omitted) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 694-95 (1981)).  “In determining the propriety of investigative stops, we review the events surrounding the stop and consider the totality of the circumstances in determining whether the police had a reasonable basis justifying the stop.  The factual basis required to support a stop is minimal.”  Knapp v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 610 N.W.2d 625, 628 (Minn. 2000) (quotation and citation omitted).  An officer cannot stop a person based on a mere whim or hunch but may make inferences based on the officer’s training and experience that may otherwise escape an untrained individual.  Schuster v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 622 N.W.2d 844, 846 (Minn. App. 2001).  Because the collective knowledge of the police can provide the basis for an investigatory stop, an officer may rely upon information relayed through a dispatcher as long as the dispatcher in fact had specific articulable facts to support suspicion of criminal activity.  Olson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 371 N.W.2d 552, 555 (Minn. 1985); accord Rancour v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 355 N.W.2d 462, 464 (Minn. App. 1984); see also State v. Riley, 568 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Minn. 1997) (stating Minnesota uses “collective knowledge” approach to determine whether probable cause existed when more than one officer is involved in investigation).

A person is guilty of careless driving when he “operates or halts any vehicle upon any street or highway carelessly or heedlessly in disregard of the rights of others, or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person, including . . . passengers of the vehicle.”  Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (2002). Careless driving is a misdemeanor violation.  Id.

Schott relied on information relayed to him by the dispatcher that was based on Henrich’s observations that the front passenger in appellant’s jeep was drinking from what appeared to be an open silver-blue beer can and that appellant permitted another passenger to remain standing in the jeep when he accelerated and left the area.  Appellant argues that Henrich’s testimony did not articulate objective facts beyond a hunch of underage consumption and contends that Henrich’s observation of an occupant standing while the jeep drove away is not sufficient to justify the stop and seizure.  We conclude that even if Henrich could not determine a person’s age or reliably identify a beer can in a person’s hand from a distance of 30 to 40 feet,[2] Henrich’s observation of an occupant of the jeep standing as the jeep drove away provided a reasonable, articulable basis to suspect appellant of careless driving.

Appellant argues that he should not be responsible for the actions of a third party standing up in his jeep.  But a person is guilty of careless driving when he “operates . . . any vehicle . . . in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger . . . any person, including . . . passengers of the vehicle.”  Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (emphasis added).  Operating an open vehicle while a passenger is standing is likely to endanger the passenger.  Actual endangerment need not be shown.  State v. Teske, 390 N.W.2d 388, 391 (Minn. App. 1986).

Appellant also argues that because he never exhibited any evasive conduct and Schott testified that he did not personally observe any suspicious driving conduct or behavior by the occupants of the jeep, the stop was unlawful.  But, as we have already stated, the factual basis for a stop need not arise from the personal observations of the officer who makes the stop and may be derived from specific, articulable, reliable information acquired from another person, including another officer.  Olson, 371 N.W.2d at 555.  The collective knowledge doctrine imputes the entire knowledge of the police force to an officer acting in the field, and that knowledge may provide the basis for a lawful investigatory stop.  See Riley, 568 N.W.2d at 523 (stating that entire knowledge of police force is pooled and imputed to arresting officer for purposes of determining whether probable cause existed for arrest).  Under the collective knowledge doctrine, Schott did not need an independent basis for stopping appellant.  State v. Cavegn, 294 N.W.2d 717, 721 (Minn. 1980).


[1] Appellant first argues that a seizure occurred when he was asked for identification. But respondent does not dispute that a seizure occurred.  The only issue is whether the stop was lawful.

[2] The district court found that Henrich recognized the silver-blue can to be a beer container and that Henrich observed the occupants of the jeep to be “as young as seventeen years old.”