Hennepin County District Court File No. 03009871
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner,
Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*fn1
A stop based on a law enforcement officer's objectively reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute that has not been construed by an appellate court is valid.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge
Reversed; motion to strike granted
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court's pretrial order granting respondent's motion to suppress evidence obtained after a traffic stop on the basis that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion for the stop. Because the officer articulated an objective basis for the stop based on a reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute that has not been otherwise construed by an appellate court, we reverse.
A University of Minnesota police officer stopped respondent Matthew Philip Anderson for a suspected violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 11 (2002), after respondent, traveling in the center lane of a three-lane one-way street, passed within three feet of the officer's squad car that was stopped in the right lane in connection with a previous stop. After respondent was stopped, the officer observed him displaying indicia of intoxication and arrested respondent for driving while impaired. Respondent was charged with driving while impaired in the fourth degree and driving while impaired with a blood alcohol concentration of.10 or more within 2 hours. Respondent was not charged with violating Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 11, which requires that before passing a stopped emergency vehicle "the driver of a vehicle shall safely move the vehicle to a lane away from the emergency vehicle."
Respondent moved to suppress the evidence obtained by the officer after the stop, arguing that the officer misinterpreted Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 11, and therefore had no objective basis to stop respondent. The district court agreed and granted respondent's motion to suppress. This appeal followed.
Did the district court err in granting respondent's motion to suppress evidence obtained after a traffic stop, on the basis that the stop was illegal because the officer did not have an objective basis to reasonably suspect that respondent had violated Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 11 (2002)?