This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Laron Lovell Brown,
Filed November 13, 2007
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 05076215
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Donna J. Wolfson, Assistant County Attorney, 525 Portland Avenue, Suite 1210, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Michael F. Cromett, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Randall,
Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.
On November 29, 2005, police dispatch informed Minneapolis Officers Andersen and Green that an individual named Person had reported that he was following a Chevrolet Caprice that Person said had been stolen from him. Person described the vehicle as a late 1980s model, white four-door Chevrolet Caprice and provided two license-plate numbers, KBG-789 and CPM-493. He stated that the KBG-789 plate was the original plate on the vehicle but that the CPM-493 plate may have replaced the original plate.
The officers located the Chevrolet Caprice where Person said it would be, traveling westbound on Broadway in Minneapolis. Person was still following the Caprice, honking his horn and flashing his lights. The officers stopped the Caprice, which appellant was driving, and began an investigation.
The officers did not run either license-plate number until after they stopped the vehicle. Officer Green testified that when he ran CPM-493, he found that the registered owner of a vehicle with that license plate was not Person. But in talking to Person, who also stopped at the scene, the officers obtained a number of unique identifying characteristics of the vehicle that the officers were subsequently able to verify. For example, there was a hole with wires in the area where a stereo would have been, the steering column had been “punched,” and the vehicle identification number (VIN) had been altered. When the officers ran the license-plate number of KBG-789, they found that it was registered to a vehicle owned by Person’s brother. Appellant’s explanation was that he had purchased the vehicle from a crack dealer for $10. But the officers arrested appellant for probable cause auto theft.
Prior to trial, appellant challenged the basis for the stop and moved to suppress the information gathered during the investigatory stop. Following a Rasmussen hearing, the district court concluded that the police had a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop appellant’s vehicle. A bench trial followed, and the district court found appellant guilty. This appeal follows.
A district court’s determination regarding reasonable articulable suspicion related to an investigatory stop is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 135 (Minn. 1999). When reviewing a determination regarding the legality of a police search-and-seizure action, this court will not reverse the district court unless the district court’s conclusions are contrary to law. Id.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I of the Minnesota Constitution prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures of persons and property. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I., § 10. “Generally, a search conducted without a warrant issued upon probable cause is per se unreasonable.” State v. Burbach, 706 N.W.2d 484, 488 (Minn. 2005) (quotation omitted). When police lack a warrant, a search must fall within one of the clear categories of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Munson, 594 N.W.2d at 135. Limited investigative stops are one such exception and are proper where the state demonstrates that the police officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting that the person stopped was involved in criminal activity. State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996). An investigatory stop “requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity rather than probable cause.” Id. at 921 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)).
The state must show only that an investigative stop was based on “‘specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.’” Id. at 921-22 (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S. Ct. at 1880). When an informant is involved, it is not necessary for police to personally observe the factual basis for the stop. Magnuson v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 703 N.W.2d 557, 560 (Minn. App. 2005) (citing Marben v. State, Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980)).
An informant’s tip alone may be sufficient to support an investigative stop where there are sufficient indicia of reliability. Magnuson, 703 N.W.2d at 560. Where a citizen informant identifies himself and makes himself available to be held accountable for providing false information, there is a presumption of reliability. Id. Ultimately, reliability depends not only on identification of the informant, but on the nature of the information that the individual provides. Yoraway v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 669 N.W.2d 622, 626 (Minn. App. 2003). The totality of the circumstances is used to determine whether an informant’s tip is sufficiently reliable to support the reasonable articulable suspicion necessary for an investigative stop. Id.
The amount of information that the informant provides lends credibility to the informant, suggesting that the tip is based on personal observations. Magnuson, 703 N.W.2d at 560. Here, the caller identified himself to police dispatch and told the dispatcher that he was following a Chevy Caprice that he claimed was stolen from him. Person provided police with a description of the vehicle and stated that there were three occupants in the vehicle. Person also gave two license-plate numbers—KBG-789, which he stated was originally on the vehicle, and CPM-493, which he said was on the Caprice at the time that he was following it. And Person made himself available to the police by following appellant and flashing his lights, waving to the two officers, honking his horn, and stopping when appellant was pulled over. Officers Andersen and Green were able to locate appellant and the informant exactly where the informant reported they would be. And the license plate on the Caprice that appellant was driving matched the second plate reported, CPM-493.
The district court determined that there was sufficient indicia of criminal activity to support the minimal factual basis necessary to support a police investigatory stop. Rose v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 637 N.W.2d 326, 328 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Mar. 19, 2002). We agree. Person’s call provided specific and articulable facts to support the allegation of criminal activity, including vehicle description, license-plate numbers, and driving location. In addition, Person’s identification of himself and availability on the scene lent further credibility to the information he provided. See Magnuson, 703 N.W.2d at 560. Appellant argues that dispatch is required to verify the allegation of criminal activity. But when there is an identified informant who provides sufficient indicia of reliability, there is no such requirement.