may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Lawrence Donald Pillar, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed October 27, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 475060
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Steven H. Alpert, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Short, Judge.
Appellant Lawrence Donald Pillar challenges the district court's order sustaining the revocation of his driver's license under the implied consent law, arguing that the arresting officer conducted an unconstitutional investigative stop. We affirm.
In the early morning of July 1, 1997, Officer Denneson of the West Hennepin Public Safety Department approached an intersection where a motorcycle was stopped perpendicular to the street. As the motorcycle left the intersection, Denneson followed the vehicle and eventually stopped it because he believed that the driver, Pillar, failed to signal a left-turn. A video camera mounted in Denneson's squad car recorded Pillar's driving conduct.
After stopping Pillar, Denneson determined that Pillar was under the influence of alcohol and arrested him. A breath test administered by Denneson revealed a 0.12 reading. Subsequently, the department of public safety revoked Pillar's driver's license.
Both Denneson and Pillar testified at the implied consent hearing. In addition, the district court viewed a copy of the videotape recorded by the camera in the squad car. That videotape showed no flashes of Pillar's left-turn signal. A video expert testified, however, that an enhanced copy of the videotape revealed three flashes of the left-turn signal before and after the left-turn in question. The district court sustained the revocation. Pillar appeals.
The constitutionality of an investigative stop is a mixed question of law and fact. Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985). When reviewing an appeal from a suppression motion, we apply the "clearly erroneous" standard to the district court's findings of fact. State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997). Once the facts are established, we will independently review the application of law to determine the adequacy of the basis for the stop. Berge, 374 N.W.2d at 732.
To conduct an investigative stop, a law enforcement officer must have a "particular and objective basis for suspecting" that the subject is engaged in criminal activity. State v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 824, 825 (Minn. 1989) (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981)). In determining the validity of a stop, the courts must consider the totality of the circumstances, giving due regard to an officer's training and experience in law enforcement. State v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1983). Even where an officer's articulated suspicion is based upon a mistake, an investigative detention is valid if the officer's suspicion is reasonable. See State v. Sanders, 339 N.W.2d 557, 559-60 (Minn. 1983) (holding traffic stop valid where officer mistakenly, but reasonably, suspected that Sanders was another individual).
Under Minnesota law, "no person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection * * * until the movement can be made with reasonable safety after giving an appropriate signal." Minn. Stat. § 169.19, subd. 4 (1996). A violation of this traffic law would provide the requisite reasonable and articulable basis for a traffic stop.
At the implied consent hearing, Denneson testified that Pillar failed to signal his left-turn from County Road 6 onto County Road 110. The district court found that the officer believed, in good faith, that Pillar committed the violation. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (on review "* * * due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses"). Additionally, a "lens flare" caused by the motorcycle's brake light made it impossible to determine from the videotape whether Pillar activated his left-turn signal before turning onto County Road 110. At the implied consent hearing, a videotape expert testified that his analysis of an enhanced, "digitalized" copy of the videotape revealed one flash of Pillar's turn signal just as his brake light came on and two flashes of the turn signal after Pillar released the brake. Logistical considerations precluded the district court from viewing the enhanced copy of the videotape.
From this testimony, the district court could properly conclude that the stop was based on the reasonable suspicion that Pillar was driving in violation of the traffic laws. The videotape presented to the district court did not show Pillar's left-turn signal flashing. Additionally, the district court found that Denneson's testimony was credible. The record does not suggest that Denneson acted out of "whim, caprice, or idle curiosity." State v. Johnson, 257 N.W.2d 308, 309 (Minn. 1977).