A recent case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals ended with the drunk driving conviction of a Mankato woman who decided it would be fun to perform a prank while intoxicated.
The case involved a 23-year-old who was out for a fun time on Halloween in 2011. The appellant and some friends had just pulled up to a stoplight in Mankato, MN at 2:30 in the morning. Apparently unaware that a Mankato police officer was parked only a few cars behind them, the group decided it would be fun to perform a Chinese fire drill right as the light was about to change.
The officer, Dale Stoltman, says he watched as several people exited the vehicle and rotated in a circle before getting back in. One of the people who got out of the car noticed the police officer and took off running, afraid of possible punishment. All this commotion caught the cops’ attention who then pulled the car over after watching it drive through the intersection.
Officer Stoltman said their behavior, the fleeing occupant and the distinct smell of alcohol, all led him to believe the driver, appellant, had been drinking. Stoltman says that after he asked the girl to step out of the vehicle he noticed her unsteadiness and glassy eyes, other indications of intoxication. A breath test done at the scene of the arrest showed that the appellant had a BAC of 0.13 percent, well above Minnesota’s legal limit.
It took no time at all before appellant admitted to drinking at a friend’s Halloween party earlier that evening. She then agreed to submit to a blood test and was booked in jail after registering a BAC of 0.11 percent.
After being charged, appellant’s attorney filed a motion in district court to suppress all the evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop. The legal argument used by her attorney was that the officer did not have the necessary reasonable suspicion to justify stopping the car. The district court judge disagreed and found her guilty, sentencing her to 30-days in jail (which was ultimately stayed), participation in a drunk driving impact panel and a $500 fine. Appellant then appealed on the same grounds that the evidence should have been suppressed.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed to take the case. The prosecution said the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the car because the young drivers had broken the law by impeding traffic. Officer Stoltman says he waited between 15 and 20 seconds at the green light before moving forward due to the Chinese fire drill, which blocked traffic. Appellant argued that this was not against the law and that Stoltman could have easily driven around the stopped car or merely honked his horn. The Court of Appeals wasted little time debating the issue and decided that officer Stoltman was right to pull the car over. Appellant’s decision to perform the automotive prank at 2:30 in the morning on Halloween was all the justification the officer needed to pull them over.
To read the full opinion, click here.
Source: “Court: fake fire drill justified drunken driving arrest,” by, published at MankatoFreePress.com.