This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Stacy Michelle Hanna, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed October 18, 2005
Stevens County District Court
File No. C5-04-112
James R. Loraas, Loraas & Loraas, 8400 Normandale Lake Boulevard, Suite 920, Bloomington, MN 55437 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Joel Watne, Jeffrey S. Bilcik,
Assistants Attorney General, 1800
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.
Appellant challenges the revocation of her driver’s license, arguing that a seizure occurred when the arresting officer positioned his squad car directly behind appellant’s legally parked vehicle, and that the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion at the time of the seizure. Because we conclude that the officer’s actions did not constitute a seizure, and that the officer possessed a reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop, we affirm.
On Saturday, April
17, 2004, at approximately 10:25 p.m., two
After parking the squad car, the deputy-driver exited the squad car and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, observing that the vehicle contained a female driver and two male passengers. The deputy, standing outside the suspect’s vehicle, asked the driver what they were doing in the parking lot, to which the woman repeatedly replied that she was not driving. The deputy testified that from the outset of the questioning, he smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath. The deputy then asked the driver to identify herself and to step out of her vehicle. The driver was identified as appellant, Stacy Hanna, and subsequent investigation revealed that she was driving while under the influence of alcohol. Appellant was charged with driving while impaired (DWI).
Following an implied-consent revocation hearing under Minn. Stat. § 169A.53, subd. 3(a), the Commissioner of Public Safety revoked appellant’s driver’s license. The district court sustained the revocation, holding that the deputy had a sufficient basis to conduct a limited investigatory stop of appellant’s vehicle. In so holding, the district court found that no seizure occurred when the squad car pulled up to appellant’s vehicle because “[t]he officer did not turn on his overhead lights to initiate a stop, nor was there any indication that the deputy blocked the petitioner’s vehicle in with his squad car.” Appellant challenges the district court’s order, arguing that the deputy parking behind and approaching appellant in her vehicle amounted to an illegal seizure and that insufficient grounds existed for a temporary seizure.
D E C I S I O N
When reviewing district
court rulings on search and seizure issues, this court accepts the district
court’s findings of fact, unless clearly erroneous. Berge v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 374
N.W.2d 730, 732 (
Appellant raises two issues on appeal. First, appellant argues that she was seized when the deputy parked behind her car, and at that time, the deputy did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to seize her. Respondent counters that no seizure occurred at the time that the deputy parked behind appellant. The key dispute here involves when appellant was seized for constitutional purposes.
“[A] person has been
‘seized’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment only if, in view of all of
the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have
believed that he was not free to leave.”
In re Welfare of E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 781 (
Appellant relies on Klotz and Sanger to support her contention that she was seized when the deputy parked his squad car behind her vehicle. In Klotz, this court determined that a seizure occurred when a trooper “pulled in behind Klotz’s vehicle, blocking it partially, and then called out to Klotz, who had left his vehicle and was walking away, and asked him to stop and identify himself.” 437 N.W.2d at 665. In Sanger, this court held that a seizure occurred where an officer boxed in Sanger’s car, activated his squad car’s overhead lights, and honked his horn. 420 N.W.2d at 243.
Appellant’s reliance on Klotz and Sanger is misplaced. Appellant had already parked her vehicle when the deputy parked behind it. Appellant was free to leave the scene when the deputy first parked and approached her vehicle. Cf. Sanger, 420 N.W.2d at 242. The deputy did not turn on the squad car’s overhead lights or instruct appellant to remain in the vehicle when he initially parked behind it. Cf. Klotz, 437 N.W.2d at 665. Therefore, we conclude that no seizure occurred when the deputy parked behind appellant.
Appellant contends she was not free to leave because her car was blocked from leaving the parking lot. But the district court found that there was no indication that appellant’s vehicle was blocked from leaving. The deputy’s testimony on this fact issue was uncontroverted. The district court had the opportunity to observe this testimony, including the diagram the deputy drew of the scene. We defer to the district court’s finding that appellant’s vehicle was not blocked from leaving. Therefore, no seizure occurred when the deputy first parked behind appellant.
district court further concluded that even if a seizure occurred when the
deputy parked behind appellant, the deputy had reasonable articulable suspicion
to conduct an investigatory stop. We
agree. The factual basis required
to support an investigatory stop is minimal.
Knapp v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety,
610 N.W.2d 625, 628 (
Here, appellant, driving several car lengths ahead of the deputies, parked and turned off her vehicle’s headlights in a car dealership parking lot, several hours after the dealership closed on a Saturday night. The deputy articulated valid reasons for the stop: to provide assistance or investigate possible illegal activity. The events observed by the deputies, at the very least, warranted further investigation in order to ensure nobody was in need of assistance and that a crime was not about to occur. Therefore, the deputies had reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop.
Second, appellant alternatively contends that a seizure occurred when the deputy approached her and ordered her out of her vehicle. Appellant relies on testimony from the officer in which he responded in the affirmative when asked, “when you first approached, you ordered [appellant] out of the driver’s door, correct?” Respondent counters that appellant takes the deputy’s answer out of context, and that his overall testimony establishes that the deputy first questioned appellant while she was in her vehicle before asking her to step out.
The district court considered and rejected appellant’s argument. The district court relied on the deputy’s testimony on redirect that he asked appellant to step from her vehicle “[a]fter [he] had spoken with her briefly.” The record also indicates that when the deputy questioned appellant in her vehicle, he observed an “odor of alcohol emanating from her.” The record supports the district court’s finding that the deputy questioned appellant and smelled alcohol on her breath before ordering her out of her vehicle.
The district court did not clearly err in finding that appellant’s car was already stopped in the auto dealership’s parking lot; nor did the district court clearly err in finding that the deputy did not order appellant from her vehicle until he smelled alcohol emanating from her. Therefore, no seizure occurred until the deputy smelled alcohol on appellant’s breath. By then, the deputy had lawful grounds to seize appellant. Holtz v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 340 N.W.2d 363, 365 (Minn. App. 1983) (ruling that “an officer need only have one objective indication of intoxication to constitute reasonable and probable grounds to believe a person is under the influence.”).
On appeal, appellant asks this court to reconsider the district court’s findings of fact in a light more favorable to appellant. Because the district court’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous, we decline to do so.