This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




State of Minnesota,



Scott Morris Peterson,


Filed December 9, 1997


Forsberg, Judge**

Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

Blue Earth County District Court

File No. TX962702

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Ross Arneson, Blue Earth County Attorney, Bradley J. Peyton, Assistant County Attorney, 410 South Fifth Street, P.O. Box 8608, Mankato, MN 56002-8608 (for respondent)

Calvin P. Johnson, 427 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 3665, Mankato, MN 56002-3665 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.




Scott Peterson was driving in Mapleton, Minnesota, when a police officer heard him sound his horn approximately eight times. There were no other cars in the area, and the officer thought that Peterson might be trying to flag him down. Peterson drove directly in front of the officer, who followed him. Peterson continued to drive, stopped for two stop signs, and made two left-hand turns with appropriate signals. Peterson did not indicate that he needed assistance. The officer followed the vehicle for four-and-a-half blocks and then stopped the vehicle.

The officer determined that Peterson had been driving while under the influence of alcohol and obtained a blood test, which showed an alcohol concentration in excess of .10. Peterson was arrested. Peterson was not cited for sounding his horn, and the officer testified that he did not suspect that Peterson was involved in any criminal activity. The officer testified that he did not know that Minn. Stat. § 169.68 (1996) prohibits sounding a horn except in an emergency.

At the pretrial hearing, Peterson moved to dismiss for lack of probable cause to stop the vehicle, but the district court denied the request. After waiving a jury trial and stipulating to the facts, the district court held a court trial, which resulted in a judgment of conviction. The district court ruled that the stop was permissible because the officer had heard the horn sounding for no reason. Peterson now appeals.


The correct approach in a case where the facts are not significantly in dispute is to simply analyze the testimony of the officers and determine if, as a matter of law, the officers were justified under the cases in doing what they did. State v. Storvick, 428 N.W.2d 55, 58 n.1 (Minn. 1988).

A limited investigative stop is lawful if the state can show that the officer had a "`particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.'" State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981)). A brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than probable cause. State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)). The officer's suspicion must arise from something more than a mere hunch; the officer must consider all the circumstances and then draw rational inferences and make deductions that "`might well elude an untrained person.'" Daly v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 405 N.W.2d 489, 490 (Minn. App. 1987) (quoting Cortez, 449 U.S. at 418, 101 S.Ct. at 695). "Ordinarily, if an officer observes a violation of a traffic law, however insignificant, the officer has an objective basis for stopping the vehicle." George, 557 N.W.2d at 578.

The police officer in this case testified that he heard the horn sound "[a]pproximately eight times," even though there were no other vehicles or pedestrians in the area. He testified that he became concerned that the driver was trying to flag him down. As the vehicle passed the officer, he noticed that the car had dealer plates, and he thought that someone may have taken the vehicle for a joy ride. This record demonstrates that the officer was able to articulate "particularized and objective" facts--an erratic honking horn and dealer plates--and could have rationally inferred that the driver needed assistance or was engaged in wrongdoing. See Daly, 405 N.W.2d at 491 (affirming stop where driver sounded horn at length, at night, and when there was no need to give warning). On these facts we cannot say that the district court erred when it ruled that there were sufficient reasons to justify a limited investigative stop.

Peterson argues on appeal that the stop was improper because the arresting officer did not know that sounding a horn for a non-emergency reason violates Minn. Stat. § 169.68. But the Minnesota Supreme Court has held 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." State v. Everett, 472 N.W.2d 864, 867 (Minn. 1991); see also Whren v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 1774 (1996) ("[T]he fact 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 does not invalidate the action taken as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action."). In this case, there was an objective basis for the stop--violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.68--which prohibits sounding a horn except in an emergency situation. The fact that the officer concedes that he did not know that sounding the horn violated Minn. Stat. § 169.68 is irrelevant. See Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 733 n.1 (Minn. 1985) (noting that even if reason stated for stopping suspect is inadequate, court would uphold stop if record established some objective basis to justify it).