Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Robert Leroy Thomale,
File No. K496188
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Asst. State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Asst. Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul MN 55101; Boyd Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney, 316 Fourth St. S.W., Willmar, MN 56201 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
Appellant challenges the omnibus court's denial of his motion to dismiss based on an unlawful stop. Because we see no abuse of the district court's discretion, we affirm.
On February 13, 1997, Kandiyohi County Deputy Randall Kveene observed a vehicle driven by appellant Robert Leroy Thomale spin its wheels as it was pulling out from a stoplight. As Kveene followed appellant's vehicle, he noticed that its windshield was cracked. Kveene stopped the vehicle as it was pulling into a motel parking lot. After running a routine check, Kveene discovered that appellant did not have a valid driver's license, arrested him, and asked him to empty the contents of his pockets. Among the items discovered was a small marijuana pipe.
Appellant was charged with one count of driving after cancellation - inimical to public safety in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 5 (1996); one count of violation of restricted license in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.09 (1996); and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.092 (1996). Acting pro se, appellant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the stop was unlawful and that the evidence taken in conjunction with the stop was inadmissible. The omnibus court denied appellant's motion.
After a jury trial, appellant was convicted of driving after cancellation and possession of drug paraphernalia. He challenges the denial of his motion to dismiss.
Whether a vehicle stop was valid is a purely legal determination based on the facts of the case. Berg v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985).
Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.
Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
Appellant argues that evidence was improperly admitted at trial because it was obtained as a result of an unlawful stop. Investigatory vehicle stops are lawful upon a showing of "specific and articulable facts establishing reasonable suspicion of a motor vehicle violation or criminal activity." State v. Duesterhoeft, 311 N.W.2d 866, 867 (Minn. 1981) (quotations omitted). The threshold required for a lawful vehicle stop is "very low." State v. Claussen, 353 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 1984). An actual violation of traffic and vehicle laws is not necessary to warrant a stop. State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996). But, the stop cannot be the product of "mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity." Id.
In the present case, the arresting deputy articulated two reasons for stopping appellant's vehicles: First, the deputy observed appellant spin his tires as he pulled away from a stoplight, causing dust to rise up from the road. Second, the deputy observed a crack in the middle of the vehicle's windshield. Based on these two observations, the deputy made an investigatory stop of appellant's vehicle.
Appellant argues that the spinning of tires is not sufficient reason to warrant the stopping of a vehicle, relying on State v. Mills, No. C1-96-2516 (Minn. App. Aug. 5, 1997) (holding that the arresting officer failed to state a "particularized and objective basis" for suspecting criminal activity when he pulled the defendant over for spinning his tires). Mills upheld the lower court's decision based on the court's credibility determination that the defendant's description of the spinning tires was more believable than the arresting officer's version. Mills, unpub. op. at 4. Mills, however, does not hold that spinning wheels cannot be a sufficient reason to make a vehicle stop. See State v. White, 292 N.W.2d 16, 17-18 (Minn. 1980) (upholding a conviction for reckless driving where the defendant spun his wheels several times on a slippery road and then parked his vehicle in the driving lane in front of a bar); see also City of St. Paul v. Olson, 300 Minn. 455, 456-57, 220 N.W.2d 484, 485 (1974) (stating, in dicta, that the act of unreasonable acceleration falls within the general prohibition against careless driving found in Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2).
Even if spinning tires is an insufficient reason to stop a vehicle, the deputy had other "articulable suspicion" to warrant the stop: appellant had a cracked front windshield in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subd. 1 (1996) ("No person shall drive or operate any motor vehicle with a windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision * * *").
Appellant contends that because the deputy could not give a detailed description of the crack, his testimony was not credible. However, credibility determinations are for the finder of fact and should not be disturbed on appeal. State v. Fisler, 374 N.W.2d 566, 569 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1985). The district court acted within its discretion in giving full credit to the deputy's testimony regarding the cracked windshield.
The deputy observed appellant spin the wheels of his car and observed a crack in appellant's windshield. These are specific and articulable facts sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of a motor vehicle violation. See Duesterhoeft, 311 N.W.2d at 867. The omnibus court did not err in finding that the stop was lawful.
 Appellant filed a pro se supplemental brief in which he also argues that he was not provided enough time to prepare his case for trial. A review of the record reveals that appellant was provided with approximately 15 hours in the law library to prepare his case, and the court willingly accepted his informal letters as motions. In addition, appellant was advised on numerous occasions that he should consider accepting the help of the public defender, but he declined. The court also provided appellant with the assistance of standby counsel in the event that he experienced any problems. Appellant was provided enough time to prepare his case.
 It should be noted that Mills is an unpublished opinion with no precedential value. See Dynamic Air, Inc. v. Bloch, 502 N.W.2d 796, 800 (Minn. App. 1993) (holding that unpublished opinions have persuasive value at best and are not precedential).