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State v. Bergerson

April 15, 2003

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
DANIEL JAMES BERGERSON, APPELLANT.



Hon. Linn Slattengren Isanti County District Court File No. KX001431

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Wright, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A police officer does not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the driver of a vehicle based solely on the purchase of two commonly sold items with lawful uses that also can be used along with other items to manufacture methamphetamine.

2. Appellant's flight from a vehicle containing contraband was not an intervening circumstance sufficient to purge the taint of an illegal stop.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wright, Judge

Reversed

OPINION

Appealing from his conviction of fifth-degree controlled substance crime, appellant Daniel Bergerson argues that police lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop his vehicle after driving away from a hardware store in which the owner had reported Bergerson's purchase of two commonly sold items with lawful uses that also can be used along with other items to manufacture methamphetamine. Bergerson also argues that the evidence seized should be suppressed as fruit of the illegal seizure. We reverse.

FACTS

On November 14, 2000, the owner of a hardware store in Cambridge called the police to report that an individual had purchased rubber tubing and acetone, commonly sold items that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. Cambridge Police Officers Todd Schuster and Jason Harvey and Isanti County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Carlson were dispatched to the store. Officer Schuster arrived first and saw an individual, later identified as Bergerson, getting into a red Chevy Beretta.

Officer Schuster spoke with the storeowner, who identified Bergerson as the person who had purchased the items. By the time Officer Schuster finished talking with the owner, Bergerson was driving out of the store's parking lot. Officer Schuster requested that Deputy Carlson and Officer Harvey stop the vehicle, identify the driver, and determine his intentions.

Deputy Carlson testified that, as Bergerson proceeded westbound on highway 95, Bergerson's vehicle did not exceed the speed limit. With Bergerson's vehicle directly in front of his squad car, Deputy Carlson attempted to pull it over by activating his flashing red lights. Bergerson did not stop immediately and continued driving while other cars began pulling over. Deputy Carlson then shined his spotlight into the back of Bergerson's vehicle, "[t]o make sure the person knew I was trying to stop him." Deputy Carlson observed Bergerson "reaching towards the front passenger floor or look[ing] like he was putting stuff in the back seat, and it appeared suspicious, as furtive movement." Deputy Carlson then activated his squad car's siren.

After Bergerson had traveled approximately one mile beyond the point where Deputy Carlson activated his flashing lights, he stopped the vehicle abruptly, exited it, and ran through a ditch. During the subsequent pursuit, Bergerson fell and Officer Harvey was able to restrain him. Bergerson was arrested and pat searched. Red phosphorus, a substance used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, was recovered from Bergerson's jacket pocket.

Meanwhile, Officer Schuster drove to the location where Bergerson had stopped his car and observed several items inside the vehicle, including coffee filters, distilled water, paper towels, a black Nike bag, and a briefcase. Officer Schuster obtained a search warrant for Bergerson's vehicle. Upon executing the search warrant the next morning, Officer Schuster seized a handgun and a substance, which tested positive for methamphetamine.

Bergerson was charged with felony controlled substance crime in the fifth degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.025, subd. 2(1)(2000), and 609.11, subd. 5 (2000), and felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 3 (2000). Following a contested omnibus hearing, the district court denied Bergerson's motion to suppress the evidence seized. The state dismissed the latter charge, and the case was submitted on stipulated facts, ...


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