This opinion will be unpublished and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
Marc Steven Tolvay,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Wabasha County District Court
File No. 79-CR-06-236
Frederic Bruno, Julie Nelson, Frederic Bruno &
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Kyle R. Gustafson, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, 1800 Bremer Tower, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court’s decision sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license under the implied-consent law, contending that the investigatory stop was constitutionally invalid. Because we conclude that the stop of appellant’s vehicle was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion of a traffic offense, we affirm.
Shortly before midnight on a Saturday, Lake City Police Officer Jeffrey Daggett stopped at a red light behind a vehicle driven by appellant Marc Tolvay. The left-turn signal light on appellant’s vehicle was blinking. But rather than completing a left-hand turn, appellant canceled the signal and proceeded straight through the intersection after the light turned green. Officer Daggett decided to follow the vehicle and activated the video recorder in his squad car.
appellant’s vehicle approached
The Commissioner of Public Safety revoked appellant’s driving privileges under Minn. Stat. § 169A.52, subd. 4(a) (2004), the implied-consent law. Appellant filed a petition for judicial review of the revocation, challenging the legal basis for the stop. After the revocation hearing, the district court sustained the revocation of appellant’s driving privileges, concluding that the totality of the circumstances, including appellant’s “unusually wide right turn” and his “apparent confusion at the first intersection,” with due regard for the officer’s training and experience, provided the officer with an adequate basis for making the traffic stop. This appeal follows.
issue in this case is whether the stop of appellant’s vehicle was supported by
reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct. The issue is complicated by Officer Daggett’s
mistaken belief that at the point at which appellant turned north onto
reviewing a district court’s determination[s] of the legality of a limited
investigatory stop, we review questions of reasonable suspicion de novo.” State
v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (
Fourth Amendment limits the discretion of a police officer to make an
investigative stop. State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (
At the revocation hearing, Officer Daggett testified that, based on his training and experience, appellant’s cancellation of his turn signal caught his attention because “[s]ometimes impaired drivers. . . won’t use their turn signals, or, if they have their turn signals on, they might continue going straight.” But Officer Daggett acknowledged that appellant did not violate any traffic laws when he canceled his turn signal and that the canceled signal “could mean a variety of things.”
The district court found that “[appellant’s] turn, in and of itself,” did not violate a traffic law. But the district court concluded that appellant’s turn was “unusually wide.” Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the officer’s observations of appellant’s apparent confusion in driving and the officer’s training and experience, the district court determined that the stop was supported by a reasonable, articulable basis and sustained the revocation of respondent’s driver’s license.
that because the stop was based on Officer Daggett’s mistaken beliefs, there
was no objective basis for the stop. An
officer’s mistake regarding the legal or factual basis for a stop is a limited
defense. See Scott v.
In George, an officer stopped a motorcycle
because it appeared that the motorcycle had three headlights. George,
557 N.W.2d at 576. But the motorcycle actually
had only one headlight; the two additional lights were “auxiliary passing
In Schinzing, the district court, in discussing the officer’s factual understanding, stated that so long as there is an objective basis for a search, “[an officer’s] failure to articulate that basis . . . does not destroy the validity of the search.” Schinzing, 342 N.W.2d at 110 n.1. In Pleas, the court recognized that an objective standard governs the determination of the adequacy of the basis for the stop and stated that “a search must be upheld . . . if there was a valid ground for the search, even if the officers conducting the search based the search on the wrong ground or had an improper motive.” Pleas, 329 N.W.2d at 332.
The state argues in this appeal that appellant violated a traffic law and that this provides an adequate basis for the stop. As stated earlier, Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(a), requires that a right-hand turn be “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” Regardless of whether this road was a striped, four-lane highway, there is evidentiary support for the finding that appellant’s wide right-hand turn violated Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 1(a). The fact that such a violation is supported by the record, provided Officer Daggett with an objective and reasonable, articulable basis upon which to initiate the traffic stop.
case is distinguishable from both Anderson
that few drivers may realize that wide turns onto streets that lack lane
dividers may violate the traffic law, that wide turns may be commonplace, that
law enforcement officers may rarely stop a motorist for such a turn, and that
stops for such conduct may be highly discretionary. Although this may permit arbitrary traffic stops,
it is not this court’s role to rewrite the traffic laws or well-established
supreme court precedent. Prior decisions
have recognized that even a violation of a minor traffic law provides a
sufficient basis for an investigative stop of a vehicle. See State
v. Barber, 308
Here, we conclude that appellant’s wide right-hand turn provided Officer Daggett with an objective basis for believing that appellant had violated a traffic law, that this is an adequate basis for initiating a traffic stop, and we affirm.
 Subsequent to the