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State v. Arechiga

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

May 28, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Eric Jerome Arechiga, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Anoka County District Court File No. 02-CR-11-6284

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

David Brodie, Coon Rapids City Attorney, Douglas L. Johnson, Assistant City Attorney, Coon Rapids, Minnesota (for respondent)

John Arechigo, Arechigo & Stokka, LLP, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Cleary, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

WILLIS, Judge [*]

On appeal from his conviction of third-degree driving while impaired, appellant challenges the district court's denial of his suppression motion, arguing that the police officer lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to support the stop of his car. We affirm.

FACTS

At approximately 5:40 a.m. on August 7, 2011, a Coon Rapids police officer was patrolling near Northdale Boulevard and Wren Street in Coon Rapids when she saw a car travelling without its headlights on. After following the car a short distance, she made a traffic stop, which resulted in the driver of the car, appellant Eric Arechiga, being charged with third-degree driving while impaired (DWI). Arechiga moved to suppress the evidence against him on the ground that the officer lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the stop.

At the hearing on the suppression motion, the officer and Arechiga offered conflicting testimony. The officer testified that she was stopped at a stop sign at Wren Street and 115th Avenue when she first saw Arechiga's car, which, she testified, was west of her location and was travelling eastbound on 115th Avenue without its headlights on. Arechiga testified that he was never west of Wren Street on 115th Avenue that morning and that his headlights were on. It was undisputed that the officer followed Arechiga's car as it travelled eastbound on 115th Avenue and south on Swallow Street before she activated the squad car's emergency lights and stopped the car. The video recording system in the officer's squad car began recording 30 seconds before the officer activated the squad car's emergency lights; the recording shows that the headlights on Arechiga's car were on. The officer said that at some point as she followed the car, the headlights came on.

The district court denied Arechiga's suppression motion, and Arechiga stipulated to the prosecution's case to obtain review of the pretrial ruling, and the parties submitted the case to the district court under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found Arechiga guilty of DWI. Arechiga argues on appeal that the district court erred by concluding that the officer had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify stopping the car.

DECISION

When reviewing a pretrial order on a motion to suppress evidence, we review the district court's legal determinations de novo. State v. Gauster, 752 N.W.2d 496, 502 (Minn. 2008). The issue of whether an investigatory stop is supported by reasonable suspicion is a legal determination. See State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 ...


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