This opinion will be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
Sara Jean Mattson,
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.
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.
she arrested the passenger, Chief Pipal asked Mattson for her driver’s license,
which Mattson was unable to produce. Chief
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.
D E C I S I O N
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 (
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 (
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.
perform a two-pronged analysis of an investigatory stop. State
v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 364 (
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.
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.”
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
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. 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
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 (
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 (
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 (
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
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
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. 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.
 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.
 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.