This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







State of Minnesota,


Sara Jean Mattson,


Filed August 29, 2006


Wright, Judge

Concurring specially, Ross, Judge


Wright County District Court

File No. 86-T3-04-010906



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, Buffalo, MN  55313 (for appellant)


William M. Ward, 10th District Public Defender, Margaret Adkisson, Assistant Public Defender, 205 Central Avenue, Buffalo, MN  55313 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Wright, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s pretrial order dismissing a criminal complaint, arguing that the district court erred in ruling that the state failed to establish that the officer who stopped a vehicle driven by respondent because the passenger was the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant had reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify expanding the scope of the investigation to the driver.  Appellant also argues that, under Minn. Stat. § 171.08 (2004), the officer had an independent legal basis for demanding respondent’s driver’s license.  We affirm. 



At 4:50 p.m. on October 2, 2004, City of Dassel Police Chief Marie Pipal was driving on Highway 12 in Cokato Township in Wright County when she observed a blue Oldsmobile traveling west on Highway 12.  Chief Pipal recognized the passenger of the vehicle as a person with an outstanding arrest warrant whom she had been attempting to locate earlier that day.  She also recognized the driver of the vehicle, respondent Sara Jean Mattson, and believed that Mattson did not have a valid driver’s license.  Chief Pipal stopped the vehicle, identified the passenger, confirmed the outstanding warrant, and arrested him. 

After she arrested the passenger, Chief Pipal asked Mattson for her driver’s license, which Mattson was unable to produce.  Chief Pipal contacted Meeker County dispatch and verified that Mattson’s driving privileges had been suspended.  Because the stop took place in Wright County, Chief Pipal contacted the Wright County Sherriff’s Department to have a deputy issue a citation to Mattson.  While waiting for the Wright County deputy, Chief Pipal placed Mattson in the back seat of the squad car to prevent Mattson from driving away.   

            Mattson was charged with one count of driving a motor vehicle after suspension, a violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 171.20, subd. 2, .24, subd. 1 (2004), and one count of driving without a valid driver’s license in her possession, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.08 (2004).  Mattson moved to suppress the evidence and dismiss the charges, challenging the basis for and scope of the investigation.  At the conclusion of the hearing on the motion, the district court made oral findings that it reiterated in its written order dated February 22, 2006.  The district court concluded that the basis for the stop—to execute an arrest warrant for the passenger—was constitutional.  But because the state failed to establish that Chief Pipal had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to ask Mattson for her driver’s license, the district court dismissed the charges against Mattson.  This appeal followed.



When the state appeals 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 (Minn. 1998) (quoting State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 630 (Minn. 1995)).  Because the district court suppressed the evidence and dismissed the charges against Mattson, the state has satisfied the critical-impact requirement.

When reviewing a district court’s decision to suppress evidence, we review the factual findings for clear error and determine as a matter of law whether, in light of the facts, suppression is warranted.  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).  The state contends that the district court erred by concluding that Chief Pipal needed reasonable, articulable suspicion to further detain Mattson to investigate the status of Mattson’s driver license.  A district court’s determination of reasonable, articulable suspicion as it relates to an investigatory stop under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968), is reviewed de novo.  State v. Waddell, 655 N.W.2d 803, 809 (Minn. 2003).

The United States and Minnesota constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures.  U.S. Const. Amend. IV; Minn. Const. art I, § 10.  Under both constitutions, a warrantless search is unreasonable unless it fits within one of the narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement.  Waddell, 655 N.W.2d at 809.  “The state bears the burden of showing that at least one exception applies, or evidence seized without a warrant will be suppressed.” State v. Metz, 422 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. App. 1988).  A brief investigatory stop is constitutionally permissible if, at the time of the stop, the officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity.  Waddell, 655 N.W.2d at 809.  A brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than probable cause.  Terry, 392 U.S. at 22, 88 S. Ct. at 1880.  To meet the standard of reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, the state must prove “that the stop was ‘not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.’”  Waddell, 655 N.W.2d at 809 (quoting State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996)).  

We perform a two-pronged analysis of an investigatory stop.  State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 364 (Minn. 2004).  In doing so, we first consider whether the stop was justified at its inception.  Id.  We then determine “whether the actions of the police during the stop were reasonably related to and justified by the circumstances that gave rise to the stop in the first place.”  Id. (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-20, 88 S. Ct.  at 1879). 

As an initial matter, we note that neither party disputes that the stop of Mattson’s vehicle to seize the passenger was constitutionally valid.  When she stopped the vehicle, Chief Pipal had a particularized and objective basis for doing so.  She knew that an outstanding warrant existed for the passenger’s arrest.  Chief Pipal testified that, after receiving a copy of the warrant earlier that day, she attempted to locate the passenger.  Chief Pipal’s recent, prior knowledge of the warrant for the passenger and her ability to identify him in the passing vehicle supplied a particularized basis to justify the stop at its inception. 

Thus, the crux of our analysis turns on whether expansion of the scope of the investigation to Mattson was constitutional.  An investigative stop must be temporary, lasting “no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop,” and tied to the circumstances under which the stop was initiated.  State v. Wiegand, 645 N.W.2d 125, 135 (Minn. 2002).  “Expansion of the scope of the stop to include investigation of other suspected illegal activity is permissible under the Fourth Amendment only if the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion of such other illegal activity.”  Id. (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 20-21, 88 S. Ct. at 1879).  “Activities that exceed the scope of a stop are not made reasonable because they are short in duration.”  State v. Syhavong, 661 N.W.2d 278, 282 (Minn. App. 2003). 

            Chief Pipal asked Mattson for her driver’s license because she suspected that Mattson did not possess a valid license.  But the record does not establish the basis for Chief Pipal’s suspicion.  In contrast to her testimony about the passenger’s warrant status, Chief Pipal’s testimony did not provide specific information about the basis for her suspicion as to the status of Mattson’s driver’s license when she expanded the scope of the investigation.  Chief Pipal testified, “I’ve had a lot of contacts with both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle. . . . I knew neither one of them – just from several contacts in the past, that neither one of them had a valid driver’s license.”  Without further questioning from the state to elicit an explanation as to the nature or time frame of her contacts with Mattson, Chief Pipal’s testimony fails to address with adequate specificity the nature of those contacts or the recency of the information on which her suspicion was based.  Cf. State v. Duesterhoeft, 311 N.W.2d 866, 866-68 (Minn. 1981) (holding that officer’s testimony as to recency of driver’s license check indicating that defendant’s driver’s license was suspended, which officer conducted one month prior to traffic stop, established reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that driver’s license was still suspended).  Because greater detail as to the basis for Chief Pipal’s suspicion that Mattson was driving without a valid driver’s license is not in the record, we cannot conclude that her suspicion was reasonable.  Thus, the state has failed to establish that expansion of the scope of the investigation to Mattson was constitutional.    

Because Minn. Stat. § 171.08 (2004) requires that every driver “have the license in immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle and . . . display it upon demand of a peace officer,” the state argues that Chief Pipal did not impermissibly expand the scope of the stop by asking for Mattson’s driver’s license.  But the Minnesota Supreme Court has held that, when demanding the display of a driver’s license under Minn. Stat. § 171.08, the officer’s actions must comport with the constitutional standard of reasonableness.  State v. McKinley, 305 Minn. 297, 299, 232 N.W.2d 906, 908 (1975); State v. Hickman, 491 N.W.2d 673, 675 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992).  In sum, an investigatory stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the evidence demonstrates that the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a person is driving without a valid driver’s license.  Pike, 551 N.W.2d at 922; Duesterhoeft, 311 N.W.2d at 868.  But the statute alone cannot save a constitutionally infirm investigative stop.      

            Finally, the state argues that Chief Pipal did not need reasonable, articulable suspicion to investigate Mattson because New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 101 S. Ct. 2860 (1981), authorizes an investigation of a vehicle’s driver if the driver is within the “geographic scope” of the passenger compartment.  This expansive reading of Belton is without merit.  When a police officer has made a lawful custodial arrest of a vehicle’s occupant, the officer “may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile” and “examine the contents of any containers found within the passenger compartment.”  Id. at 460, 101 S. Ct. at 2864. But the Belton court limited its holding to “containers,” which it defined as “any object capable of holding another object[, including] closed or open glove compartments, consoles, or other receptacles located anywhere within the passenger compartment, as well as luggage, boxes, bags, clothing, and the like.”  Id. at 460-61 n.4, 101 S. Ct. 2864 n.4.  Contrary to the state’s argument, Belton does not stand for the proposition that the Fourth Amendment permits a police officer to expand the scope of an investigatory stop of a passenger to the driver merely because the driver is within the vehicle’s passenger compartment. 

            The state failed to establish that Chief Pipal had a reasonable, articulable basis to expand the scope of the investigatory stop to Mattson.  Accordingly, the district court did not err by suppressing the evidence acquired as a result of that expansion and dismissing the charges against Mattson. 


ROSS, Judge (concurring specially)

I concur in the majority’s conclusion; based on the record, the state failed to establish that Police Chief Marie Pipal’s request to see Sara Mattson’s driver’s license did not violate Mattson’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.[1]  I write separately to clarify that, unlike the majority, I believe that it is the timing rather than the nature of the chief’s request that resulted in an unconstitutional search in this case.  The important distinction is that the chief exceeded the duration of a lawful traffic stop, not that her request exceeded the substantive nature of the stop.  Because of her timing, the chief needed reasonable suspicion before making the request.

The majority holds that Chief Pipal’s request to see Mattson’s license unconstitutionally expanded the scope of the stop.  But I believe that the routine law-enforcement procedure of requesting a motorist’s driver’s license in the context of a traffic stop is a de minimus intrusion that ordinarily is constitutionally inconsequential.  The majority’s analysis mistakenly suggests that an officer violates a driver’s Fourth Amendment rights by doing what perhaps 50 Minnesota peace officers will do in the time it will take to read this short concurrence—asking the driver of a vehicle that has been lawfully stopped for some purpose other than a license violation to present her driver’s license.

It is the distinction between the temporal and substantive scope of police activity that frames my disagreement with the majority’s analysis.  The Minnesota Supreme Court, relying on Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968), explained this distinction four years ago when it considered the constitutionality of a dog sniff around the exterior of a car that police stopped for a burned-out headlight.  In State v. Wiegand, police converted a routine traffic stop into a drug investigation without reasonable suspicion that drugs were present at the scene.  645 N.W.2d 125, 133-36 (Minn. 2002).  The court acknowledged that the officers directed the sniff quickly, within the temporal duration of the stop, because the dog completed the sniff before an officer had finished issuing a written citation for the equipment failure.  Id. at 136.  But despite resolving their investigation for drugs within the temporal scope of the traffic stop, the investigation was constitutionally infirm.  The court noted that “the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment is not concerned only with the duration of a detention, but also with its [substantive] scope.”  Id. at 136.  It reasoned that the federal and state constitutions limit the scope of a Terry investigation to the subject matter that occasioned the stop, to a protective search for weapons, and to an investigation of additional offenses for which the officer develops reasonable suspicion within the temporal duration of the stop.  Id.  The Wiegand court held that the dog sniff unconstitutionally expanded the substantive scope of the stop beyond resolving the minor infraction.  Id.

The supreme court relied on Wiegand one year later to hold unconstitutional the substantive expansion of another lawful traffic stop.  State v. Fort, 660 N.W.2d 415, 418-19 (Minn. 2003).  In Fort, officers had stopped a car occupied by an 18-year-old African-American male, ostensibly for speeding and having a cracked windshield.  The stop occurred in north Minneapolis, in what officers described as a “high drug” area.  Without reasonable suspicion of drugs or weapons, officers converted the stop into a drug and weapons investigation, asking the occupants whether they had narcotics and weapons and seeking and obtaining consent to search for the same.  As was the case in Wiegand, the supreme court in Fort assumed that the substantively expanded investigation did not extend the duration of the stop beyond the time necessary to resolve the equipment violation.  See id. at 419 n.1 (noting that inquiry into whether officers’ extended length of stop would not affect resolution of case).  But the court determined that because the expanded investigation into narcotics and weapons, including the related search, had “no connection to the purpose for the stop,” the investigation unconstitutionally expanded the scope.  Id. at 419.

These cases of significant police overreaching, which address officers groundlessly elevating traffic stops for minor equipment failures into inquests for drug or weapon violations, do not compare closely to this case.  The record here does not reveal any police over-intrusiveness.  We are not considering a street interrogation, a drug-dog sniff, a body or car search, or an extended detention; we are considering merely an officer’s request to see a driver’s license.  Before the stop, Chief Pipal had personal knowledge that the passenger in Mattson’s car was the subject of a valid arrest warrant.  Without dispute, this forms the legal basis for the stop, for the detention of the vehicle and, necessarily, for the temporary detention of the driver.  See State v. Smallwood, 594 N.W.2d 144, 155 (Minn. 1999) (requiring particularized and objective basis for stopping vehicle).  While the majority is correct that asking Mattson for her license was not essential to arresting Mattson’s passenger, in my view, this routine request does not reflect the kind of overreaching, substantive expansion of an investigation that the Wiegand line of cases is concerned about.

The United States Supreme Court has recently noted the inoffensive nature of the police practice of asking to see the driver’s license of a lawfully detained individual: “In the ordinary course a police officer is free to ask a person for identification without implicating the Fourth Amendment.”  Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court, 542 U.S. 177, 185, 124 S. Ct. 2451, 2458 (2004) (interpreting officer’s request for identification as a request to produce a driver’s license or some other form of written identification).  Minnesota courts have not directly addressed the question, but other courts considering the treatment of a lawfully detained driver similarly reason that “continued detention simply to request license, registration, and insurance documents from a driver is not unreasonable and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”  State v. Rubio, 136 P.3d 1022, 1026 (N.M. Ct. App. 2006); see also United States v. Maldonado, 356 F.3d 130, 134 (1st Cir. 2004) (“A driver’s license and registration are plainly routine documents that the police may review [without violating the Fourth Amendment] in the course of any highway stop.”); United States v. Shabazz, 993 F.2d 431, 437 (5th Cir. 1993) (“[W]e have no doubt that in a valid traffic stop, an officer can request a driver’s license, insurance papers, vehicle registration, run a computer check thereon, and issue a citation.”); Clark v. Municipality of Anchorage, 112 P.3d 676, 678 (Alaska Ct. App. 2005) (“[T]he officer may ask the motorist to produce routine driving documents” (Quotation omitted.)); People v. Altman, 938 P.2d 142, 145 (Colo. 1997) (finding no Fourth Amendment violation when state trooper stopped car with dirty license plate and cracked windshield and asked driver to produce his driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance); Chang v. State, 608 S.E.2d 283, 285 (Ga. Ct. App. 2004) (“It does not unreasonably expand the scope or duration of a valid traffic stop for an officer to prolong the stop to immediately investigate and determine if the driver is entitled to continue to operate the vehicle by checking the status of the driver’s license, insurance, and vehicle registration.” (Quotation omitted.)); People v. Bradley, 685 N.E.2d 426, 428 (Ill. App. Ct. 1997) (“[W]hen, as here, a police officer has lawfully stopped a motorist, the officer may ask to see the motorist’s driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration, and the officer’s doing so does not raise any constitutional issues.”).

Our own myriad traffic cases establish that officers initiate stops on varied grounds, infrequently regarding whether the driver possesses a valid license.  Occasionally, as here, these lawful stops do not even concern the driver’s conduct.  Stops arise, for example, from vehicle-equipment failures; the vehicle’s registration; the occupants’ right to possess the vehicle; a passenger’s conduct or behavior; or the existence of a warrant authorizing the search or seizure of the driver, a passenger, or the vehicle itself.  See, e.g., State v. Waddell, 655 N.W.2d 803, 808-10 (Minn. 2003) (upholding stop of vehicle fitting description of vehicle used in recent robbery and carrying passengers matching offenders’ descriptions); State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 922 (Minn. 1996) (upholding stop when officer knew driver’s license was revoked); State v. Johnson, 713 N.W.2d 64, 66 (Minn. App. 2006) (upholding stop based on perceived vehicle-equipment violation).  Therefore, in addition to being beyond the call of precedent to require inquiring officers first to develop reasonable suspicion that the driver is unlicensed, the requirement is impractical.  Rather, we should recognize that a police officer ordinarily is free to ask a lawfully detained driver for common documents such as a driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, without implicating the Fourth Amendment.

It follows that Chief Pipal’s request for Mattson’s driver’s license raises no substantive issue related to the scope of the stop.  Once Chief Pipal lawfully stopped Mattson’s car, she was not constitutionally restricted from approaching the driver and asking for her license as part of the ordinary course of the event.  So understood, the simple request falls within, rather than expands, the scope of the stop.

But for the timing of the request, therefore, I would consider it to be of no Fourth Amendment concern.  The durational ground still requires that we hold that the request violated the Constitution because Chief Pipal made the request after her business with Mattson’s passenger had ended.  I believe this case should be resolved simply on this court’s holding in State v. Hickman, 491 N.W.2d 673 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992), and I would affirm on that basis alone.  In Hickman, an officer lawfully stopped a car that he believed had expired registration.  But immediately upon stopping the car the officer learned that its registration was, in fact, not expired.  Id. at 674.  He approached the driver and asked for his license anyway.  Id. at 674.  Recognizing that an officer violates the Fourth Amendment by demanding the license of a driver who is not detained during a lawful stop, State v. McKinley, 232 N.W.2d 906, 910-11 (Minn. 1975), the Hickman court concluded that the officer’s request was unconstitutional because the basis for the stop no longer existed.  Hickman 491 N.W.2d at 675; see also Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 663, 99 S. Ct. 1391, 1401 (1979) (holding that police officer who stops car and detains driver solely to check for proper licensure without reasonable suspicion that driver is unlicensed violates the Fourth Amendment).

Similarly, Chief Pipal had no independent reasonable suspicion to stop and detain Mattson as an unlicensed driver, and having chosen not to request the license within the scope of arresting Mattson’s passenger, the chief’s subsequent request resulted in an unreasonable detention under the Fourth Amendment.[2]  My agreement with the majority’s conclusion therefore rests on the critical fact that, unlike the ordinary traffic stops in the cases discussed above, Chief Pipal made no request to see Mattson’s driver’s license as part of the initial traffic stop.

[1]   I point out that the testimony at the suppression hearing was not particularly developed.  A more careful focus would have illuminated the chief’s consideration and may have led to a different result.

[2]    This is not intended to suggest that a police officer acts outside the scope of a stop simply by making a practical decision to make an arrest first, waiting until after securing the arrested passenger to check the status of the driver.  The underdeveloped record before us, however, does not indicate that the delay was tactically motivated.