STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Isanti County District Court
File No. K898418
Jeffrey Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, G. Paul Beaumaster, Assistant County Attorney, 555 18th Avenue Southwest, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan K. Maki, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Appellant Alan John Fridstrom challenges the lawfulness of a stop based on a sticker in the rear window of his vehicle. We affirm.
Where the district court credits the testimony of the arresting officer and facts are not in dispute, this court's review simply involves an analysis of the officer's testimony to "determine whether, as a matter of law, his observations provided an adequate basis for the stop." Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985). A question of statutory interpretation is a question of law subject to de novo review. State v. Zacher, 504 N.W.2d 468, 470 (Minn. App. 1993).
The Fourth Amendment applies to brief investigatory stops of cars and dictates that the officer must have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the inhabitant of the car of criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968). This requisite basis is often referred to as an officer's articulable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. Ascher v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183, 184 (Minn. 1994).
It should be emphasized that the factual basis required to support a stop for a "routine traffic check" is minimal. An actual violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law need not be detectable. For example, an automobile in a general state of dilapidation might properly arouse suspicion of equipment violations. All that is required is that the stop be not the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity. It is enough if the stop is based upon specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.
Marben v. State, Dep't of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980) (quotations omitted). Minnesota law prohibits any nontransparent material from being placed on the rear window of a vehicle. The statue provides:
No person shall drive or operate any motor vehicle with a windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision, or, except for law enforcement vehicles, with any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield, other than sun visors and rear vision mirrors, or with any sign, poster, or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, sidewings, side or rear windows of such vehicle, other than a certificate or other paper required to be so displayed by law, or authorized by the state director of the division of emergency management, or the commissioner of public safety.
Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subd. 1 (1998).
The district court concluded that the sticker was made of nontransparent material and obstructed the view of the driver through the rear window. Fridstrom was stopped for a violation of the statute. The record before us supports the district court's findings. We conclude there was a sufficient basis for the stop.