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Clark v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 9, 2013

Melissa Rae Clark, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Red Lake County District Court File No. 63-CV-12-74

Daniel S. Adkins, The Adkins Law Group, Chartered, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Jacob Fischmann, Joan M. Eichhorst, Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Cleary, Judge.

LARKIN, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's order sustaining the revocation of her license to drive under the implied-consent law, Minn. Stat. § 169A.53 (2010), claiming that the revocation stems from an illegal traffic stop and that the district court erred by failing to order respondent to produce a squad-car video of the stop. We affirm.

FACTS

On April 29, 2012, police arrested appellant Melissa Rae Clark for driving while impaired, and respondent Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety revoked Clark's driving privileges under the implied-consent law. Clark petitioned the district court for review of the revocation, arguing that the traffic stop that preceded her arrest was unlawful. Next, Clark moved the district court for summary judgment, based on the destruction of a squad-car video that purportedly recorded the traffic stop. Clark argued that she was substantially prejudiced by "[t]he destruction of this major piece of evidence." The district court denied Clark's motion, reasoning, in part, that "[t]he [c]ommissioner's position that he is not required to 'produce documents from non-parties' is well established."

Later, the district court held an evidentiary hearing on Clark's petition for review of the revocation. The following evidence was presented. At approximately 12:58 a.m. on April 29, Red Lake County Sheriff Deputies Kelly Brekke and Dustin Arlt were on patrol in their squad car and noticed a vehicle continually weaving within its own lane. The deputies testified that they followed the vehicle for several miles and saw the vehicle's passenger side tires cross entirely over the white fog line on the right side of the road. They further testified that after crossing the white fog line, the vehicle corrected, and the driver's side tires went over the center yellow line, but did not cross it entirely. The deputies decided to stop the vehicle and activated the emergency lights in their squad car. The vehicle's driver's side tires then swerved completely over the yellow line. After initiating a traffic stop, Deputy Brekke identified Clark as the driver and arrested her for driving while impaired. Clark testified that her vehicle did not cross the center line or the fog line.

The district court found "the testimony of the two deputies more credible than the testimony from [Clark]. The two deputies testified consistently with each other in spite of a sequestration order which required neither to be in the courtroom while the other was testifying." The district court therefore concluded that the deputies' "credible testimony . . . that [Clark's vehicle] crossed the center line and the fog line" provided a "legal basis for the stop of [Clark's] motor vehicle" and sustained revocation of her driving privileges. This appeal follows.

DECISION

I.

Clark argues that the district court erred by concluding that the traffic stop was lawful. Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions prohibit unreasonable search and seizure by the government. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. A police officer may, however, initiate a limited investigative stop if the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921-22 (Minn. 1996). Whether police have reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop depends on the totality of the circumstances, and a stop is not justified if it is "the product of mere whim, caprice, or idle curiosity." In re Welfare of M.D.R., 693 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn.App. 2005) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. June 28, 2005). The court may consider the officer's experience, ...


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