Nicollet County District Court File No. 52-CR-11-309
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Michael Thomas Everson, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michelle Marie Zehnder Fischer, Nicollet County Attorney, St. Peter, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rochelle Rene Winn, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of felony test refusal, arguing that the police officer lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the traffic stop and that the district court therefore erred by denying his suppression motion. We affirm.
In the early morning hours on August 5, 2011, St. Peter Police Officer Thomas Winsell was on routine patrol in the downtown St. Peter business district when he observed a vehicle traveling through an alley that runs parallel to Front Street and Minnesota Avenue. Officer Winsell saw the vehicle exit the alley and turn onto Broadway Avenue without stopping.
Officer Winsell initiated a traffic stop, approached the vehicle, and identified the driver as appellant Lucas Hollerich. While speaking with Hollerich, Officer Winsell smelled alcohol emanating from the vehicle and noticed that Hollerich's eyes were bloodshot and glassy. Hollerich failed several field sobriety tests, and a preliminary breath test showed that Hollerich's alcohol concentration was .10. Officer Winsell placed Hollerich under arrest, transported him to the Nicollet County Sheriff's Office, and read him the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory. Hollerich thereafter refused to submit to testing.
Respondent State of Minnesota charged Hollerich with first-degree driving while impaired and felony test refusal under Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subds. 1–2 (2010). Hollerich moved to suppress the evidence against him on the basis that Officer Winsell lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the traffic stop. The district court denied the suppression motion, concluding that Officer Winsell had a legal basis to stop Hollerich because he observed Hollerich violate a Minnesota traffic law that requires a driver emerging from an alley in a business district to stop a vehicle before "driving onto a sidewalk or into the sidewalk area." Minn. Stat. § 169.31 (2010). Although the state did not elicit testimony from Officer Winsell that the alley in question crosses a sidewalk at its intersection with Broadway, the district court concluded that the existence of a sidewalk could be reasonably inferred from the officer's testimony.
To obtain review of the district court's pretrial suppression order, Hollerich stipulated to the prosecution's case, and the parties submitted the case to the court under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The court found Hollerich guilty of felony test refusal.
This appeal ...