This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. §subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Terri Marie Gertken, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed September 3, 1996
Stearns County District Court
File No. C1-95-3482
Robert D. Stoneburner, Stoneburner Law Office, 100 Washburne Avenue, PO Box 202, Paynesville, MN 56362 (for Appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Amy V. Kvalseth, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 200, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Norton, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this implied consent appeal, the driver contends the trial court erred when it found that the arresting officer had made a lawful investigatory stop and sustained the revocation of her driving privileges. We affirm.
As appellant Terri Marie Gertken and her husband were travelling on a highway late at night, they approached an oncoming vehicle driven by Officer Andrew Rose. According to Officer Rose, the extreme brightness of Gertken's headlights "led [him] to believe that they were the bright lights." He flashed his headlights at her, but noticed that she never dimmed her lights. As the vehicle passed, the officer saw a single headlight illuminated on each side with foglights beneath. Officer Rose turned around, followed the vehicle, and stopped it for the purpose of warning the driver about dimming her headlights. Once he had stopped Gertken and identified her, his observations provided probable cause to arrest her for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
The Commissioner of Public Safety revoked Gertken's driving privileges after the arrest. Gertken requested a hearing for judicial review pursuant to Minn. Stat. §subd. 5c (1994). The only issue at the hearing was the lawfulness of the investigatory stop; for purposes of that hearing, Gertken stipulated that the arrest was legal, the officer had properly given her the advisory, and that her alcohol concentration was over .10. The trial court sustained the revocation on the grounds that the officer had a reasonable basis to make the stop. Gertken then moved for amended findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order or, in the alternative, a new trial. After a hearing, the trial court denied both motions in their entirety. Gertken appeals only from the order denying these motions, not from the judgment itself.
Viability of the appeal
The Commissioner of Public Safety has moved to dismiss this action, alleging that Gertken's motion for new trial was not specific enough to preserve issues for appeal.
The appellate court imposes a "stringent standard of review" when examining the denial of a motion for new trial and limits its inquiry to "whether the trial court exercised reasonable discretion in denying the motion for a new trial." Red River Spray Serv., Inc. v. Nelson, 404 N.W.2d 332, 334 (Minn. App. 1987). This court will review only those claimed errors specifically alleged in the motion for new trial. Schaust v. Town Board of Hollywood Township, 295 Minn. 571, 572, 204 N.W.2d 646, 648 (1973); Waldner v. Peterson, 447 N.W.2d 217, 219 (Minn. App. 1989). The motion for new trial must be specific enough to identify the alleged errors and allow the trial court to correct them. Waldner, 447 N.W.2d at 219. "A motion for a new trial which fails to identify specific grounds must be affirmed on appeal." Id.
Here, Gertken's motion for new trial and supporting affidavit merely alleged the court's decision was not supported by the evidence and was contrary to law. These bases alone were not specific enough to inform the trial court of alleged errors or allow meaningful review on appeal. Id.
Attached to the blended motion for amended findings or new trial, however, counsel for Gertken submitted an affidavit and proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order. These proposed findings and conclusions reveal that Gertken challenged the trial court's credibility determinations, findings based on the evidence, and legal conclusions regarding the validity of the stop. When a party presents a blended motion for amended findings or new trial and contends that the findings are unsupported by the evidence and that the conclusions are contrary to the law, this court will construe the new trial motion liberally to allow review. Weikle v. Weikle, 403 N.W.2d 682, 686 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. June1987); see also Minn. R. Civ. P.(allowing new trial when court's decision is contrary to law or unsupported by evidence). Thus, with this blended motion, the proposed amended findings and conclusions of law notified the court of claimed errors and thereby preserved the issues for appeal. The motion to dismiss is denied.
Lawfulness of the stop
Gertken claims the officer lacked a reasonable basis to stop her. Whether an officer has an adequate basis to stop and seize a driver is a question of law. State v. Day, 461 N.W.2d 404, 406 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Dec.1990).
In order to make a legal investigatory stop of a motor vehicle, police must have "specific and articulable facts" that establish a "reasonable suspicion" of a driving violation or criminal activity. State v. McKinley, 305 Minn. 297, 302, 303, 232 N.W.2d 906, 910, 911 (1975). "All that is required is that the stop be not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity." State v. Johnson, 257 N.W.2d 308, 309 (Minn. 1977), quoted in State v. Johnson, 392 N.W.2d 685, 687 (Minn. App. 1986). If the stop is based on an officer's mistake, the stop will still be valid if the officer acted reasonably and in good faith. See State v. Duesterhoeft, 311 N.W.2d 866, 868 (Minn. 1981) (holding stop valid and not the product of whim or caprice where officer reasonably suspected that defendant was driving the vehicle).
Trial testimony revealed that the stop was valid, because Officer Rose stopped Gertken based solely on his belief that she failed to dim her bright headlights. See Holm v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 416 N.W.2d 473, 475 (Minn. App. 1987) (upholding stop based on driver's failure to dim headlights). Other evidence in the record suggests that he may have been mistaken, given that he observed only one headlight illuminated on each side, rather than the two per side required for high beams. Even in hindsight, if he had been mistaken, however, the stop was valid because, at the time he made the stop, he believed that Gertken was in violation of the law. See City of St. Paul v. Vaughn, 306 Minn. 337, 342-43, 237 N.W.2d 365, 368-69 (1975) (holding stop valid because police had acted in good faith, honestly believing they were pursuing defendant, even though they were actually pursuing his brother). The record does not suggest that Officer Rose acted out of "whim, caprice, or idle curiosity." Johnson, 257 N.W.2d at 309. The trial court was correct when it denied the motion for new trial and concluded, "I do find that *there was a reasonable basis for the stop even if it was based on mistaken belief of the officer, and the Commissioner's revocation of the license is sustained."