STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dale Kenneth Carlson, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed February 2, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 476045
Ned E. Ostenso, Merrigan, Brandt & Ostenso, P.L.L.P., 25 Ninth Avenue North, P.O. Box 458, Hopkins, MN 55343 (for appellant)
Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Jeffrey F. Lebowski, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
Dale Kenneth Carlson was stopped while driving with an infant in the driver's seat of his vehicle, and was then arrested for driving while intoxicated. The trial court sustained the Commissioner of Public Safety's revocation of Carlson's driving privileges. On appeal, Carlson argues the trial court erred in concluding there was an objective basis for the investigative stop of his vehicle. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
In reviewing the adequacy of investigative stops, we determine whether the trial court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the trial court's opportunity to judge the credibility of witnesses. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prods., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975) (defining "clearly erroneous" as "manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence"). If the facts are undisputed, we independently examine whether, as a matter of law, there was a reasonable basis for the investigative stop. Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985).
Carlson argues the trial court erred in sustaining his revocation because the arresting officer stopped Carlson only for failure to properly restrain an infant in his vehicle. But, to make a lawful investigative stop, an officer need only have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the stopped individual was engaged in criminal activity. State v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 824, 827 (Minn. 1989) (quoting United States v. Cortez[cedilla]449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 694-95 (1981)). A suspected violation of Minnesota's child passenger restraint statute is reasonable grounds for an investigative stop. See Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 5(b) (1998) (prohibiting operation of motor vehicle with child under age of four not properly fastened in child passenger restraint system); State v. Lucas, ___ N.W.2d ___ (Minn. Jan. 21, 1999) (holding suspected violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.685, subd. 5(b) contains no restrictive citation provision and thus is sufficient basis for investigative stop).
During Carlson's implied consent hearing, the arresting officer testified: (1) he observed a small infant, approximately two years of age, standing in front of the driver in the driver's seat of Carlson's pickup truck; (2) although the truck was only traveling three to five miles per hour, it was moving through a busy parking lot; (3) the infant's head was the same level as Carlson's head; (4) the infant's hands were placed on the steering wheel and he could not see Carlson's hands; and (5) he asked Carlson to stop the vehicle because he felt "having a small infant on the driver's seat with his hands on the wheel was not a safe maneuver." Given these facts, the arresting officer reasonably and objectively based his investigative stop on the belief that Carlson was violating the law by not properly restraining the infant in his vehicle and, more generally, by not driving safely. See Appelgate v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 402 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Minn. 1987) (noting officer may base stop on circumstances that include personal observations, nature of suspected offense, time and location); Marben v. State, Dep't of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (noting investigative stops only required to not be product of whim, caprice or idle curiosity); see also Minn. Stat. §§ 169.13, subd. 2 (1998) (making it misdemeanor for any person to operate vehicle in manner that endangers property or person); 169.37 (1998) (stating no person shall ride in position that interferes with driver's view or control over vehicle). Under these circumstances, the trial court properly sustained the revocation of Carlson's driving privileges.