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State v. Strandness

August 03, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, APPELLANT,
v.
RANDY BRUCE STRANDNESS, RESPONDENT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. 03065640.

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 9 (2002), provides an affirmative defense for a motorcyclist charged with failing to obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device; it does not exclude a motorcyclist from the requirement of Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 4, that the driver of any vehicle obey such instructions.

2. A defendant charged with failing to obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device who raises the affirmative defense provided in Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 9, has the burden of proving the elements of the defense.

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

Reversed and remanded

OPINION

Respondent motorcyclist moved to suppress evidence of his intoxication and to dismiss charges of fourth-degree DWI, arguing that the officer who stopped him had no reasonable, articulable suspicion that respondent was involved in criminal activity because respondent's right turn against a red traffic light and a sign prohibiting right turns on a red light was "appropriate and within the parameters of the law." The district court granted respondent's motion. Because we conclude that the affirmative defense that respondent relies on applies only after a motorcyclist has been charged with failing to obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device and that the officer who stopped respondent had a reasonable, articulable suspicion that respondent was engaged in criminal activity, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on September 8, 2003, Officer Andrew Landon of the Richfield Police Department observed respondent Randy Bruce Strandness drive a motorcycle out of a parking lot near the intersection of 62nd Street and Nicollet Avenue South. Strandness proceeded north on Nicollet Avenue and stopped at a red light at the intersection of Nicollet and 60th Street. Traffic in all four directions at the intersection was controlled by traffic lights, and there was a "no right turn on red" sign for traffic northbound on Nicollet. Strandness stopped at the intersection, waited approximately ten seconds, and then turned right against the red traffic light and proceeded east on 60th Street. Officer Landon stopped Strandness for making a right turn against a red light at an intersection marked "no right turn on red." Strandness exhibited signs of intoxication and was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with an alcohol concentration of.10 or more, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subds. 1(1), (5) (2002).

Strandness moved at his Rasmussen hearing to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop and to dismiss the charges. Strandness argued that the case was controlled by Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 9, which provides motorcyclists with an affirmative defense to failing to obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device under certain circumstances. He argued further that because all of the conditions described in the statute were met, "a violation did not occur" and that, therefore, Officer Landon had no reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. The district court concluded that Strandness had waited a "reasonable amount of time" with "due regard to traffic conditions" before turning against the red light and the no-right-turn-on-red sign and that Officer Landon "lacked articulable reason" to stop Strandness. The court also concluded that when Strandness raised the affirmative defense "the burden shifted to the State to disprove the defense" and that the state failed to meet that burden. This appeal follows.

ISSUES

1. Does Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 9, provide an affirmative defense for motorcyclists charged with failing to obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device, or is it an exclusion for motorcyclists from the requirement of Minn. Stat. § 169.06, subd. 4, that the driver of any vehicle obey such instructions?

2. Which party has the burden of proof regarding the elements of the affirmative defense described in Minn. ...


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