This opinion will be unpublished and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
James Patrick Blaisdell,
Filed August 8, 2006
Wright County District Court
File No. 86-T4-05-010973
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Thomas N. Kelly, Wright County Attorney, Lee R. Martie, Assistant County Attorney, Wright County Government Center, 10 Second Street Northwest, Suite 400, Buffalo, MN 55313 (for appellant)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414; and
Wesley J. Abrahamson, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from a pretrial order suppressing evidence and dismissing charges of driving with expired tabs and no proof of insurance, the state argues that the district court clearly erred in ruling that respondent was seized when he was ordered back into his vehicle by an officer before any observed criminal activity. Because the officer followed the vehicle in order to run the vehicle’s license-plate number and the officer would have inevitably discovered the violations, and because the officer ordered respondent back into his vehicle in order to assess the situation and to preserve officer and public safety, we reverse and remand.
D E C I S I O N
The state argues that the district court
erred in concluding that the seizure of respondent James Patrick Blaisdell was
illegal. If the state appeals from a
pretrial suppression order, it “must clearly and unequivocally show both that
the [district] court’s order will have a ‘critical impact’ on the state’s
ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and that the order constituted
error.” State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (
stop of a vehicle is a permissible seizure if it is based on a reasonable,
articulable suspicion of criminal activity.
Marben v. State Dep’t of Pub.
Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (
The parties do not dispute that ordering respondent back into his vehicle constituted a seizure. While patrolling an apartment complex parking lot late one night after the apartment manager requested that officers patrol the area because of numerous noise and drug complaints, an officer observed a vehicle rapidly exit the parking lot. The officer followed the vehicle in order to run the vehicle’s license-plate number. When the officer caught up to the vehicle, it was pulled over to the side of the road and the driver, respondent, was exiting the vehicle. Respondent approached the officer who was also exiting his vehicle and the officer ordered respondent to get back into his vehicle because the officer did not know why respondent was stopped and approaching the squad car. After the officer ordered respondent to get back into his vehicle, respondent became argumentative. The officer then observed that the license tabs on respondent’s vehicle had expired, and, when asked, respondent was unable to provide proof of insurance.
The state argues that the district court erred in concluding that
the officer did not possess a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal
activity before seizing respondent because it was reasonable for the officer,
based on all of the circumstances, to seize respondent. An investigative “seizure” short of
an arrest is justified if the officer can point to specific and articulable
facts that, “taken together with rational inferences from those facts,
reasonably warrant the intrusion.” State
The officer’s action of ordering respondent back into his vehicle was a reasonable intrusion. First, the officer followed respondent’s vehicle from a parking lot that the officer was patrolling because of noise and drug complaints in order to run the vehicle’s license-plate number. When the officer caught up to the vehicle it was stopped on the side of the road. The officer acquired no information from ordering respondent back into his vehicle; thus, there was no “fruit” of any fourth amendment violation. Additionally, it was inevitable that the officer was going to be able to run the vehicle’s license-plate number at that time and discover that respondent’s tabs were expired. See State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 105 (Minn. 1999) (stating that the “inevitable discovery” exception permits the admission of evidence obtained following alleged police officer misconduct if the police officer would have obtained the evidence if no misconduct had taken place). Additionally, but for respondent exiting his vehicle, the officer would not have been compelled to order respondent to get back into his vehicle in order to freeze the situation and to maintain the officer’s and the public’s safety. This is especially true because the officer had safety concerns—he did not know respondent, he did not know why respondent was stopped, and he did not know why respondent had exited his vehicle and was approaching the officer’s vehicle. Therefore, after balancing the officer’s interest in freezing the situation to assess the circumstances and respondent’s right to be free from a minimal intrusion of being ordered back into his vehicle, the officer’s actions were reasonable.
Reversed and remanded.