This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 06-009422
David K. Ross, Carson, Clelland & Schreder, Suite 305, Shingle Creek Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55430 (for respondent)
Jon P. Erickson, William D. Siegel, Barna, Guzy &
Steffen, Ltd., 400 Northtown Financial Plaza,
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
Appellant challenges his conviction of third-degree DWI, arguing that the police did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop his vehicle and that all evidence resulting from the stop should have been suppressed. Because the district court did not err in determining that the stop was reasonable, we affirm.
At 1:15 a.m. on a January morning, the Rogers police department received a “suspicious activity call” from an employee of the Black Bear Lodge & Saloon reporting that the restaurant was closed and that someone was banging on the non-public service door in the back, which was locked for the night. The employee requested that an officer investigate the situation. Three officers responded and observed four people walking away from the saloon towards the nearby municipal liquor store, which shares a parking lot with the saloon. Officer Wegner circled the building in his squad car and did not see anyone else. As two of the people he had previously observed began to drive away, Officer Wegner activated his emergency lights and stopped the vehicle to talk with the people to see if they knew “what was going on at Black Bear.”
Appellant Garrett Veal was the driver of the vehicle. In speaking with Veal and his passenger, Wegner learned that the passenger was the person who had knocked on the door. The passenger explained that he was looking for a ride home and knew someone who worked at the restaurant. As he was speaking to Veal, Officer Wegner observed signs of intoxication and subsequently arrested him for driving while impaired (DWI). After testing, Veal was charged with two counts of third-degree DWI and one count of fourth-degree DWI.
Veal moved to suppress evidence of his intoxication, asserting that Officer Wegner had no reasonable, articulable basis for stopping his vehicle. At the omnibus hearing, Officer Wegner testified that when he first saw the four people walking away from the saloon, he “believed they may have been involved in the suspicious activity call,” but he “wasn’t sure yet.” Wegner testified that although he had not observed any traffic violations or criminal behavior, he wanted to see if the occupants of the vehicle knew or saw anyone knocking on the back door of the saloon.
The district court denied Veal’s motion to suppress, concluding that “[i]t was reasonable for the officer to stop the vehicle to determine whether the persons in the vehicle were associated with the knocking on the door,” noting that there may have been someone other than the four people observed who needed help or who had an intent to return to commit a criminal offense.
Following a trial to the court, Veal was convicted of and sentenced for third-degree DWI. Veal’s sentence was stayed pending this appeal.
The facts in this case are undisputed, and the only issue is
the legality of the investigatory stop of Veal’s vehicle. We review the question of the legality of
such a stop de novo. State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (
a narrow category of criminal matters, namely, those in which a law enforcement officer stops a motor vehicle without a warrant, without probable cause to arrest an occupant, and without observing any overt illegality, but with the beliefs that the [occupants of the vehicle are] engaging in suspicious behavior and that further investigation is necessary.
State v. Schrupp, 625 N.W.2d 844, 846
(Minn. App. 2001), review denied (
In Schrupp, this court held that a police
officer failed to identify any inference of possible criminal activity to
justify his investigatory stop of a vehicle.
But we noted in Schrupp
that the central inquiry is whether the “‘particular governmental invasion of a
citizen’s personal security’” was reasonable under all of the circumstances.
In Schrupp, we concluded that the stop was unreasonable because “at the inception of the stop the officer’s suspicion was inchoate and that no facts had ripened into the category of unusual behavior from which a reasonable inference of the possibility of criminal behavior could be drawn.” In this case, however, Officer Wegner was responding to a citizen’s request to investigate loud banging on a locked service door of a saloon in the early morning hours after the saloon was closed for the night, which the citizen, an employee still inside the saloon, considered an unusual and suspicious occurrence. When asked why he made an investigatory stop of Veal’s vehicle, Officer Wegner testified, “I don’t know if it’s a medical, somebody needs help, I don’t know whether they’re breaking in. My sole purpose was to stop that vehicle for that situation that took place. I needed to see what they knew about it, what was going on.”
Veal argues that once Officer Wegner
had determined that there was no one at the back door of the saloon, he no
longer had reason to suspect that anyone was in need of assistance or
committing a criminal activity, citing State
v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 922 (Minn. 1996), for the proposition that if an
officer discovers facts which render the officer’s prior suspicion
unreasonable, any investigative stop initiated after that point would be
unconstitutional. In Pike, the Minnesota Supreme Court held
that an officer’s knowledge that a vehicle’s owner has a revoked license
provides enough reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify an
investigatory stop unless the officer becomes aware of facts that make it
unreasonable to assume that the owner is the driver.
Because Officer Wegner stopped Veal on the reasonable suspicion that Veal or his passenger were involved in or had knowledge of reported suspicious activity or were in need of assistance, we conclude that the stop did not violate Veal’s federal or state constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable government intrusion, and the district court did not err in denying his motion to suppress.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Veal urges this court not to credit Officer Wegner with the observation skills of a more experienced officer because he had only been an officer for a few months when the incident at the Black Bear occurred, but the record does not indicate that Officer Wegner drew any inferences or deductions that would elude a person with average observation skills.