Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-CR-12-3458
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mark A. Ostrem, Olmsted County Attorney, James P. Spencer, Assistant County Attorney, Rochester, Minnesota (for appellant)
Thomas R. Braun, Christopher W. Coon, George F. Restovich & Associates, Rochester, Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court's pretrial dismissal of its complaint against respondent Terry Raye Dye for lack of probable cause. Because the district court applied the incorrect legal standard and improperly weighed the state's evidence in granting Dye's motion to dismiss the charge of criminal vehicular operation, we reverse the dismissal and remand to the district court for further proceedings.
Around 1:00 a.m. on September 17, 2011, R.Z. was riding his bicycle near Rochester on Highway 52, a large divided highway that has three "through" northbound lanes and one exit/entrance lane. R.Z. was riding in the middle northbound lane of traffic when he was hit by a semi-truck. The truck did not stop, but R.Z. was able to call 911 as he was lying on the side of the road. R.Z. suffered serious injuries from the collision.
Surveillance video from Minnesota Department of Transportation cameras captured the accident and showed that R.Z. had been struck at 1:01:50 a.m. The video shows a full-sized semi-truck hitting R.Z. and R.Z.'s bicycle skidding to the side of the road. The video footage, along with broken pieces of a plastic bumper and fog lamp found at the scene, led police to conclude that R.Z. had been hit by a truck driven by Dye.
Dye is an over-the-road trucker and was driving for his employer, C.R. England Trucking Company. Law-enforcement officers located Dye in Missouri about one week after the accident and seized the truck. Another C.R. England employee told police that Dye told him that "he thought he had struck a deer, but it was dark when the collision occurred."
Logs obtained from C.R. England reflected Dye's location on that night in 15-minute increments. At 1:00 a.m., Dye was traveling northbound on Highway 52. At 1:15 a.m., Dye was on West Circle Drive, a city street that skirts the west side of Rochester. At 1:30 a.m., Dye was again traveling northbound on Highway 52. Records also show that Dye sent a message to his employer in the afternoon of September 17, stating that he hit a deer around 11:00 p.m. the night before under foggy conditions in Wisconsin.
The state charged Dye with one count of criminal vehicular operation in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(7) (2010) (leaving the scene of the accident). Dye moved to dismiss the charge for lack of probable cause, arguing that the state's evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause that he knew he hit a person. The state asserted that the evidence, including the truck logs, Dye's statements, and the video, were sufficient to establish probable cause. Particularly, the state argued that the video showed that Dye flashed his headlights at R.Z. before the crash, suggesting that he saw R.Z. and thus knew he hit a person. The ...