This opinion will be unpublished and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
Chad Steven Stern,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed April 3, 2007
Carver County District Court
File No. 10-CV-06-60
Robert A. Lengeling, Gerald A. Miller, Gerald Miller & Associates, P.A., 2915 Wayzata Boulevard, Minneapolis, MN 55405 (for respondent)
Attorney General, Jeffrey F. Lebowski, Kimberly J. Middendorf, Assistant
Attorneys General, 1800
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Collins, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The Commissioner of Public Safety appeals the district court’s order rescinding the revocation of respondent’s driving privileges under the implied-consent law. Because the district court’s findings demonstrate that the deputy had a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop respondent’s motor vehicle for malfunctioning taillights, we reverse.
D E C I S I O N
This court will not reverse the
district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. Thompson
v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 567 N.W.2d 280, 281 (
A sheriff’s deputy on nighttime
patrol met respondent Chad Steven Stern’s vehicle traveling on a
Consistent with Terry v. Ohio, an officer must have a specific and articulable
suspicion of a violation before stopping a vehicle. Marben
v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (
In keeping with settled law, the stop
of respondent’s vehicle was justified if it was based on an observed equipment
violation. Lighted taillamps must be
displayed on every vehicle upon a highway at night.
In the order, the district court wrote: “While the [c]ourt understands that [the deputy’s] observation of [respondent’s] vehicle without taillights on may have created some curiosity, the [deputy’s] observations were not enough to initiate the stop. This [c]ourt believes that [the deputy] should have observed some additional improper driving behavior prior to initiating the stop.” (Emphasis added.) But such is not the law.
Respondent contends that the district court weighed the credibility of the witnesses and appropriately found the respondent’s testimony more persuasive. But the district court’s credibility determinations adverse to the deputy did not go to the court’s only essential finding—that the deputy observed respondent’s vehicle being operated without taillights on. The court’s credibility findings favoring respondent went to some further observations of which the deputy testified, but which were unnecessary to justify the traffic stop.
Because the district court’s doubts about other observations made by the deputy are not material to the justification for the stop, we conclude that the district court erred in its application of the facts to the established law justifying traffic stops for even minor equipment violations.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.