This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Richard Allen Dobsinski,
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K0-05-2429
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800
John J. Choi,
Christopher J. Champagne, Ramsey County Public Defender, 101 East Fifth Street, Suite 1808, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction, claiming that it was based on evidence discovered as a result of an illegal seizure. Because we conclude that the police stopped and approached appellant based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion, the district court properly denied the motion to suppress the evidence, and we affirm.
The only issue on
appeal is whether the district court erred in denying appellant’s suppression motion. “When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to
suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a
matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing—or not
suppressing—the evidence.” State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of
the Minnesota Constitution protect the “right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV;
determine the legality of an investigative stop, 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.” Britton,
604 N.W.2d at 87. An officer may conduct
a limited stop to investigate suspected criminal activity if the officer can
point to “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational
inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” State
v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921-22 (
Here, Officer Nelson formed his suspicion that appellant was involved in Mohr’s shoplifting scheme on the basis of specific and articulated facts: Mohr attempted to leave the store with two shirts shortly after appellant dropped Mohr off at Target. Mohr told Officer Nelson that appellant was waiting for him in the parking lot. Mohr described the type of vehicle appellant was driving. Mohr and the officers identified such a vehicle on the security monitors as the vehicle was circling the Target parking lot. Officer Nelson observed a vehicle fitting Mohr’s description stopped close to the door of the store. According to Officer Nelson’s testimony, these particular facts were consistent, in his experience and training, with his suspicion that appellant was involved in the shoplifting scheme.
Not only was Officer Nelson’s suspicion formed on the basis of specific and articulable facts, the investigatory stop was also reasonable. The investigative stop was limited in nature. Nelson simply approached appellant’s vehicle, asked appellant what he was doing at Target, and asked him for his driver’s license. And while it is true that the facts here are also consistent with lawful behavior, it is well established that “wholly lawful conduct might justify the suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.” Britton, 604 N.W.2d at 89. Here, the officers did not seek to stop just any vehicle in the parking lot. Instead, the officers stopped the particular black Cadillac that Mohr identified as having driven him to Target, the same vehicle that Officer Nelson observed circling the parking lot, and the vehicle now parked near the front entrance to the store. Appellant argues that there were at least two black Cadillacs in the parking lot. Although confusion between the two vehicles was a risk factor, the fact that there were only two similar vehicles does not so diminish the officers’ basis for acting as to eliminate the existence of reasonable, articulable suspicion. Here, the officers’ suspicion that appellant was assisting Mohr was reasonably based on the totality of the circumstances, and the officers’ investigative stop was not based upon a whim, caprice, or idle curiosity.
argues that investigatory stops are generally limited to suspected ongoing
criminal activity and that because Mohr’s misdemeanor shoplifting attempt had
been foiled, and because Mohr had been arrested before the officers stopped
appellant’s vehicle, the stop was unlawful. The essence of appellant’s argument is that by
definition Terry stops conducted to
investigate misdemeanors that have been completed are unreasonable. Appellant cites Blaisdell v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 375 N.W.2d 880 (Minn. App.
1985), aff’d on other grounds, 381 N.W.2d
In Blaisdell, law enforcement agents
conducted a Terry stop to investigate
a misdemeanor theft that was completed two months prior to the stop.
Like the Blaisdell court, we do not define when a misdemeanor offense becomes completed so as to bar subsequent investigative stops. Here, the time between Mohr’s shoplifting offense and the investigative stop of appellant was short, just a matter of minutes. This distinguishes this case from Blaisdell. Appellant’s position, that Mohr’s shoplifting offense was “completed” at the moment he was detained by Officer Nelson and that the officers were barred as a matter of law from conducting a Terry stop to further investigate the offense, is inconsistent with Blaisdell’s instruction that courts be hesitant to declare criminal conduct in the very recent past to be completed. Essentially, appellant claims that once completed, the crime is stale, that the lack of imminence or urgency diminishes the need for action, and that it was improper to make a stop unless other circumstances provided an independent basis for the stop. Because Mohr had just been apprehended and his shoplifting offense had just been prevented, the investigatory stop of appellant was reasonable. The events were contemporaneous and related. Appellant’s stop took place within the time frame of Mohr’s offense. In this setting, a Terry stop is appropriate. If adopted, appellant’s position would unnecessarily chill a legitimate and related criminal investigation that is occurring in the context of the very offense that law enforcement has interrupted.
Because we conclude that Officer Nelson’s limited investigative stop was based on reasonable articulable suspicion and was contemporaneous with the principal shoplifting offense, we affirm.