This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Gene Kent Stensrud,


Filed February 25, 1997

Reversed and remanded

Amundson, Judge

Goodhue County District Court

File No. K796825

Gary Fridell, Goodhue County Attorney, Stephen F. O'Keefe, Assistant Goodhue County Attorney, Goodhue County Courthouse, Room 103, Red Wing, MN 55066 (for Appellant)

Kevin F. Mark, 425 West Third Street, Red Wing, MN 55066 (for Respondent)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.



The state challenges the district court's order suppressing the evidence obtained after the officer's initial stop of respondent's motor vehicle for lack of registration plates. We reverse and remand.


On June 9, 1996, Minnesota State Trooper Randy Bluhm noticed that respondent Gene Kent Stensrud's truck did not have visible vehicle registration plates. Trooper Bluhm, observing no other traffic violations, stopped Stensrud's truck.

After stopping the truck, Trooper Bluhm approached Stensrud's vehicle and noticed a partially folded Wisconsin temporary registration attached to the window. He did not examine the registration, but continued to the driver's window.

At the driver's window, Trooper Bluhm immediately noticed an odor of alcohol coming from inside the truck. He also noticed that the driver, Stensrud, had bloodshot eyes. Trooper Bluhm asked Stensrud for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Stensrud complied with this request. Because he suspected that Stensrud may have been under the influence of alcohol, Trooper Bluhm asked Stensrud to sit in the squad car.

Trooper Bluhm examined the temporary registration from outside the truck. However, he was not able to determine its validity fully because it was folded. He went back to the squad car and had Stensrud perform field sobriety tests. Because Stensrud failed the tests, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Trooper Bluhm once again looked at the registration, this time from inside the truck, and determined as best he could that the registration was valid.

Stensrud was charged with implied consent refusal, driving under the influence of alcohol, and violation of a restricted license. At an omnibus hearing, Stensrud moved to suppress all the evidence obtained after the initial stop as being an unlawful search and seizure. Stensrud also moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause.

After hearing the testimony of Trooper Bluhm and Stensrud, the court granted Stensrud's motion to suppress the evidence and dismissed the complaint for lack of evidence. The district court concluded that the officer, after observing the temporary registration on the back of the truck, had no reason to approach Stensrud and request his license. The district court determined that if the officer had not approached Stensrud, the officer would not have discovered the information leading to probable cause for Stensrud's arrest. Thus, the district court ruled that because the officer had no basis to detain Stensrud further, the officer violated the Fourth Amendment and the evidence seized as a result of the constitutional violation must be suppressed. This appeal followed.


The state argues that the district court erred in suppressing the evidence gathered by Trooper Bluhm after he observed the registration on the back of the truck. The state claims that Trooper Bluhm had an objective basis--determining the validity of the registration--to detain Stensrud and request identification. We agree.

An appellate court will reverse a pretrial order to suppress evidence if the state "clearly and unequivocally" demonstrates that the district court erred in its judgment and that the error will have a critical impact on the outcome of the trial. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992). When the facts are not disputed, this court will determine as a matter of law if the officer's actions amounted to a seizure and if so, if the officer had an adequate basis for the seizure. Kranz v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 539 N.W.2d 420, 422 (Minn. App. 1995).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 10 to the Minnesota Constitution prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. An officer seizes an individual whenever the officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1877 (1968). The Terry doctrine, applied to the automobile context, requires that the police have a specific and articulable suspicion of a violation before stopping an automobile. Marben v. State, Dep't of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980).

In its order suppressing the evidence, the district court relied on State v. Hickman, 491 N.W.2d 673 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992). In Hickman, an officer stopped a car because of an expired registration sticker. While seated in his patrol car, the officer saw a temporary 21-day permit and confirmed the validity of this permit when he walked towards the vehicle. Despite his confirmation of the validity of the permit, the officer approached the driver and asked for his driver's license. The driver then admitted to not having a valid license and the officer charged him with driving after revocation.

This court held that checking a driver's license after suspicions about the vehicle's registration have been dispelled constituted an unlawful intrusion. Id. at 675. This court reasoned that after seeing the temporary permit, the officer no longer had an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the vehicle was unregistered, that the driver was unlicensed, or that any criminal activity was afoot. See id.

This case is distinguishable from Hickman. In this case, Trooper Bluhm had a specific and articulable suspicion of a violation that justified his initial stop of Stensrud's vehicle. However, unlike in Hickman, Trooper Bluhm's suspicions did not dissipate before he approached Stensrud and requested his driver's license. Instead, his suspicions remained until he checked the permit from inside the truck. Thus, Trooper Bluhm was justified in his approach of Stensrud.

As a result of Trooper Bluhm's contact with Stensrud, additional specific and articulable suspicions--the odor of alcohol and Stensrud's bloodshot eyes--surfaced that justified the request for identification. Thus, we conclude that Trooper Bluhm had an adequate basis for the seizure.

Reversed and remanded.