This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
James Allen Koltes, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed August 20, 1996
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 473156
Jeffrey B. Ring, Harlan Goulett, Jeffrey B. Ring & Associates, The Colonnade, Suite 1025, 5500 Wayzata Blvd., Minneapolis, MN 55416 (for Appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Nancy J. Bode, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park St., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court sustained respondent Commissioner of Public Safety's revocation of appellant's driver's license for violating the implied consent law. Appellant challenges the stop as pretextual and the arrest as unduly delayed. We affirm.
A New Hope police officer stopped appellant James Allen Koltes in his car sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. The officer testified that, before the stop, he observed a broken taillight on appellant's car. But he also testified that "[a]t that time of night I look for probable cause to stop vehicles." On cross-examination of the officer, the following exchange occurred:
Respondent Commissioner of Public Safety does not appear to dispute seriously that the officer used appellant's broken taillight as a pretext for investigating whether appellant was intoxicated while driving; therefore, for purposes of this opinion, we assume that the stop was pretextual.
Q: So you like to watch cars to see if you can find some reason to stop them even though your real reason is that you want to check them out for DWI, is that correct?
A: I normally like to patrol, you might say, extra hard during the bar closing times at night.
The officer approached the vehicle and asked appellant for his driver's license and proof of insurance. During this interaction, the officer noticed indicia of intoxication. The officer decided to call his department's "safe and sober" squad (which only handles DWI and seat belt violations) to conduct the field sobriety tests, rather than to conduct them himself.
D E C I S I O N
There was some dispute at the district court hearing as to how long appellant waited before the "safe and sober" squad arrived. Appellant testified that the stop occurred at about 12:30 a.m. and that testing did not begin until about 1:10 a.m. The officer who stopped the vehicle suggested that the stop was between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m. The parties do not challenge the district court's finding that appellant's pre-arrest detention was 30 minutes long.
Respondent revoked appellant's driver's license for violation of the implied consent law. Appellant sought review in the district court, which affirmed the revocation. Appellant now challenges the revocation, arguing that the stop was unlawfully pretextual and that his pre-arrest detention was longer than permitted by
Terry v. Ohio
, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968).
The facts in this case are undisputed, and only legal issues are presented. Therefore, our standard of review is de novo.
See Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n
, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984) (reviewing court need not give deference to lower court's decision on a purely legal issue).
I. Pretextual Stop
The Supreme Court has stated that a search or seizure need not be held unlawful merely because
Scott v. United States
, 436 U.S. 128, 138, 98 S. Ct. 1717, 1723 (1978). Our own supreme court has stated in dictum that
the officer does not have the state of mind which is hypothecated by the reasons which provide the legal justification for the officer's action * * * as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action.
State v. Everett
, 472 N.W.2d 864, 867 (Minn. 1991).
we have repeatedly relied upon [
's] holding that if there is an objective legal basis for an arrest or search, the arrest or search is lawful even if the officer making the arrest or conducting the search based his or her action on the wrong ground or had an improper motive.
Just prior to oral arguments in this case, the Supreme Court issued its decision in
Whren v. United States
, 116 S. Ct. 1769 (1996), which considered a pretextual stop claim. The opinion confirms that a stop for which an objective basis exists is valid under the Fourth Amendment. The officer's subjective intent and whether the stop "deviated materially from usual police practices" are irrelevant.
We find no basis for extending protection in this area beyond that outlined in
. Appellant expressly declined to argue that our own state constitution provides stronger protection against searches and seizures than does the Fourth Amendment.
II. Length of Detention
The district court found that appellant was detained "approximately 30 minutes" from the time he was stopped until his arrest. Appellant contends that, under the circumstances, the length of the detention exceeded that permissible under
Terry v. Ohio
, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968).
There are no strict time limitations on the duration of
State v. Blacksten
, 507 N.W.2d 842, 846 (Minn. 1993).
United States v. Sharpe
, 470 U.S. 675, 686, 105 S. Ct. 1568, 1575 (1985)).
In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, we consider it appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant.
The dispute in this case concerns the delay caused by the officer's decision to call the "safe and sober" squad for further DWI investigation. The officer testified that
The officer testified, however, that nothing prevented him from conducting further investigation himself.
since we were short manpower that evening and since we have a squad car on that was strictly just for that particular instance, I thought it would be best suited that I call [the "safe and sober" squad] to the stop location.
Appellant argues that respondent thus relies on "police convenience" alone as a justification for the delay and that the officer failed to "diligently pursue a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel [his] suspicions quickly" as is required by
, 507 N.W.2d at 846. Appellant, though, conceding that police convenience may be a consideration in the balancing test, argues that there must also be an investigative component to the reason for the detention. We disagree.
Although it appears there was some delay before the "safe and sober" squad arrived, there is no indication of any bad faith on the part of the officers, and it is plainly reasonable to have such a specialized unit on patrol. Under the circumstances of this case, the 30-minute delay from the time of the stop until the arrest is not excessive.
There is no doubt that, absent consideration of the pretext issue, appellant's taillight violation provided a valid, objective basis for the stop.
See, e.g., State v. Faber
, 343 N.W.2d 659, 660 (Minn. 1984) (headlight violation provided a valid objective basis for the stop);
Holm v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety
, 416 N.W.2d 473, 475 (Minn. App. 1987) (violation of statute requiring driver to dim headlights when approaching oncoming traffic justifies a stop).