STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Mark Alan Peters, petitioner,
Commissioner of Public Safety,
Filed July 13, 1999
Mille Lacs County District Court
File No. C598577
John H. Alme, Steven J. Meshbesher, Meshbesher & Associates, 225 Lumber Exchange Building, 10 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Leah M. Percich, Sean R. McCarthy, Assistant Attorneys General, 525 Park Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
This is an appeal from a district court order sustaining the revocation of appellantís driverís license under Minn. Stat. ß 169.123 (1998), the implied consent law. Appellant Mark Alan Peters claims that the state trooper did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to support the traffic stop that resulted in Petersís arrest. We affirm.
Minnesota State Trooper Keith Happke received a call from dispatch, reporting a citizenís tip regarding a possible drunk driver. The caller reported seeing open beer cans in the possession of the occupants of a black Chevrolet truck with a trailer. The caller also reported that the driver had made obscene gestures to him. At the time of the call, the citizen was reportedly following the truck in a white Ford Explorer and gave the dispatcher his name and phone number. When Trooper Happke located the black truck, he saw the Ford Explorer on a nearby exit ramp. The trooper followed the truck and observed it and the trailer cross the fog line twice, each time by a foot or more, and once for an extended distance. He stopped the vehicle and observed that the driver, appellant Peters, showed indicia of intoxication. Trooper Happke arrested Peters, and testing showed that he had an alcohol concentration of .13.
A. Standard of Review
Once the facts are established, this court will independently review the application of law to determine the adequacy of the basis for the stop. Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985).
A police officer may make an investigatory stop of a vehicle if the officer is able to articulate a particular and objective basis for believing the individual stopped was engaged in criminal activity. State v. Johnson, 444 N.W.2d 824, 827 (Minn. 1989) (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18, 101 S. Ct. 690, 694-95 (1981)). A "specific and articulable suspicion" of a traffic violation generally provides the "minimal" support necessary for a "routine traffic check" under the Fourth Amendment. State v. Clark, 394 N.W.2d 570, 571-72 (Minn. App. 1986) (upholding stop based on obscured license plate and suspicion of broken muffler) (quoting Marben v. State, Depít of Pub. Safety, 294 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. 1980)). The test is whether the officer observed sufficient objective facts to support the stop. Shull v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 398 N.W.2d 11, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). In determining its validity, courts should consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the stop. Cortez, 449 U.S. at 418, 101 S. Ct. at 695.
Minnesota cases do not require "much of a showing in order to justify a traffic stop." State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997). Ordinarily, an officerís observation of a traffic-law violation will provide an objective basis to support a stop. Id.
B. Traffic Stop
The factual basis for stopping a vehicle need not arise from an officerís personal observation but may be based on information received from another person. Marben, 294 N.W.2d at 699. The reliability of a private citizen may be presumed. Id. Informants who identify themselves are more likely to be telling the truth. State v. Lindquist, 295 Minn. 398, 400, 205 N.W.2d 333, 335 (1973).
This case was based on information received from a citizen who gave his name and phone number to the dispatcher and reported that Peters had an open container of alcohol in his truck while driving. Because the informant could be contacted by the police if necessary, reliability is presumed, and the caller could have been found and held accountable if the police later concluded the information given was intentionally false. See id.; see also City of Minnetonka v. Shepherd, 420 N.W.2d 887, 890 (Minn. 1988) (stating that, by identifying himself, caller gave police opportunity to hold him accountable if he knowingly provided false information).
Peters argues that the informant was not credible, citing Olson v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 371 N.W.2d 552, 553-56 (Minn. 1985) (concluding that, where deputies received anonymous tip of possible drunk driver and located car but did not observe erratic driving or traffic violations, there was no legal basis for stop). See also State v. Teigen, 381 N.W.2d 529, 531 (Minn. App. 1986) (stating that officer observed nothing to give him reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and that anonymous informant relayed no facts to form basis for reasonable suspicion). But here, the tip was not anonymous, and the trooper observed a traffic violation.
Peters further alleges that the informant was not reliable because appellantís obscene gestures gave the informant motivation to make a false report and because the Ford Explorer left the scene as the trooper arrived. Neither argument is persuasive. In fact, the trooperís observation of the Explorer in the area corroborated the tip by showing that the informant had been in a position to observe the alleged behavior. Further, Petersís allegation regarding the informantís reaction to obscene gestures is pure speculation.
After receiving the tip, the trooper located Petersís vehicle and observed it twice cross the fog line, a traffic violation. See Minn. Stat. ß 169.18, subd. 7(a) (1998) (providing that vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within single lane). The tip and the traffic violation, taken together, created a reasonable, articulable suspicion for Trooper Happke to make the stop. See George, 557 N.W.2d at 578 (stating that, if officer observes violation of traffic law, officer has objective basis for stopping vehicle).
Peters claims that it was raining heavily at the time of the stop and that the weather could have contributed to the fact that his vehicle crossed the fog line. But Trooper Happke testified it was not raining heavily at the time of the stop. Where the district court credits the testimony of the arresting officer, this courtís review simply involves an analysis of the officerís testimony to "determine whether, as a matter of law, his observations provided an adequate basis for the stop." Berge, 374 N.W.2d at 732. The district court did not err by finding there was a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop.