When a police officer or Minnesota Highway Patrol trooper is driving along a street or highway, they are not permitted to stop anyone to check an see if they are committing a crime. Because of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 10 the Minnesota Constitution, the people of the state are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Stopping a vehicle on the road is a seizure for constitutional purposes, and law enforcement needs either a warrant or a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. Most of the time, the motorist supplies that by driving over the speed limit, running a stop sign, making an illegal turn or lane change or any one of the numerous offenses contained with the various state laws and ordinances that apply to vehicular traffic.
But what happens when the driver of a vehicle does something that “could” be suspicious, but to an objective observer, provides no specific conduct that would support a traffic stop? In the case of one Rochester man, you get the traffic stop dismissed for lack of reasonable suspicion.
The case involved a police officer who was patrolling near a bar that had experienced “fights and assaults” near closing time. While driving on U.S. 63, he observed a vehicle turn into the parking lot of a towing business.
He thought this was odd, as the business was closed at that time of night. He followed the vehicle and turned on his emergency lights. He talked to the driver and had him perform some field sobriety tests, which led the officer to arrest him for a DWI.
Next time, will examine how the Court of Appeals decided this case.
Source: postbulletin.com, “Appeals court reverses DWI conviction,” Kay Fate, August 17, 2015