In a recent unpublished Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, State of Minnesota v. Bosaaen, the court addressed the issue of illegal search and seizure as it related to a traffic stop based on an informant’s tip involving a hunter.
In the evening of October 7, 2009, officer Gordon Steffel was dispatched to investigate a report of illegal hunting taking place in Dakota County, Minnesota. On his way to the location, Steffel spoke with “L.K.”, a citizen informant who provided his date of birth and cell phone number to the officer and told Steffel he’d seen a red Ford F-150, a dark Chevrolet and a gray truck parked together. L.K. stopped to offer help thinking they were having car trouble, but one man responded that they were after big venison and they had just seen some, despite knowing that the hunting season was closed.
As Steffel neared the area, L.K. told him the vehicles were leaving and as Steffel got closer he saw a red Ford F-150 turn in front of him and he followed it. He then flashed his lights and stopped the truck. Steffel questioned the appellant who said he was coming home from a softball game. While the two were talking Steffel detected the smell of alcohol and asked appellant if he had been drinking. He admitted to having had two beers after which he was subjected to and failed a series of field sobriety tests. He then submitted to a preliminary breath test showing a blood alcohol concentration of .166. He was placed under arrest and later given a full breath test which showed a BAC of .13.
The appellant was charged with two counts of third-degree DWI. In response, appellant attempted to have the breath test results suppressed, claiming the stop was illegal. His motion was denied and he was ultimately found guilty.
The case made its way up to the Minnesota Court of Appeals which had to consider whether the informant’s information was reason enough to allow for the stop of appellant’s vehicle. Appellant claimed that because the police never independently verified any misconduct on his part, the stop was illegal and all evidence gathered ought to be suppressed.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed with the appellant and ultimately held that officers are allowed to make limited investigative stops if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is engaged in criminal activity. This burden of reasonable suspicion can be met with information from an informant if that information appears sufficiently reliable.
In this case, the Court ruled that because appellant’s truck matched the description provided by L.K. and was seen traveling from the area where L.K. had been located, officer Steffel had an objective basis to stop the truck driven by the appellant. As an informant, L.K. adequately provided information about himself and gave specific details of his conversation with the suspected hunters. As a result, the informant was reliable enough to provide a reasonable basis for stopping appellant and the district court’s ruling was ultimately upheld by the Court of Appeals.
If you’ve run into trouble with the law and have questions, contact Douglas T. Kans, an experienced Minnesota DWI lawyer willing to do what it takes to protect you from the harm you could suffer as a result of a DWI charge. Call today at (952) 835-6314 for a free case consultation.
To read the full opinion, click here.