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Marxhausen v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 30, 2013

Logan Keith Marxhausen, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Stearns County District Court File No. 73-CV-12-10171.

Rodd Tschida, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

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

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

HOOTEN, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's order sustaining the revocation of his driver's license under the implied-consent law, arguing that the revocation stems from an illegal traffic stop. We agree with appellant that a seizure occurred when his car was blocked by a squad car with the emergency lights activated, but because the seizure was supported by the officer's reasonable suspicion that appellant had violated traffic laws, we affirm.

FACTS

On October 1, 2012, around 2:44 a.m., appellant Logan Keith Marxhausen was driving eastbound on University Drive South in Saint Cloud. At this time, Minnesota State Patrol Trooper John Fritz turned onto the same roadway and traveled behind appellant's vehicle. There were no other drivers on the road at this time. University Drive is a four-lane road, with two lanes for eastbound traffic, and two lanes for westbound traffic. Trooper Fritz testified that this area is mostly residential.

Trooper Fritz observed appellant driving in the eastbound, inside traffic lane, with an empty lane between appellant's car and the curb. He then observed appellant braking, not coming to a complete stop, and then continuing down University Drive. Trooper Fritz testified that he saw no obstructions that would have explained why appellant braked. Trooper Fritz observed appellant braking again before coming to a complete stop in the middle of the roadway. At this point, a pedestrian walked up to appellant's car and sat in the front passenger seat.[1] Trooper Fritz testified that he did not see the pedestrian carrying anything. After picking up the pedestrian, appellant's car continued down University Drive.

Trooper Fritz continued following appellant's car while appellant turned left off of University Drive and headed north, possibly onto Twelve Avenue; turned right onto Seventh or Eighth Street heading east; turned left onto East Lake Boulevard heading north; and finally turned right onto Fifth Street heading east. Trooper Fritz testified that appellant used turn signals for all of the turns and that he did not observe any erratic driving behaviors. Trooper Fritz observed appellant's right rear tire bump over the curb as appellant made his final turn. Immediately after the turn, appellant parked behind another car. Trooper Fritz parked behind appellant's car, activated his overhead flashing red emergency lights, and walked up to appellant's car.

Based on Trooper Fritz's further interaction with appellant, appellant was arrested for driving while impaired and respondent Commissioner of Public Safety revoked his driver's license under the implied-consent law. On judicial review, the district court sustained the revocation, finding that Trooper Fritz did not seize appellant when he approached the already parked car, and that even if he did, the stop was supported by reasonable suspicion when he observed appellant impeding traffic by stopping in the middle of the roadway, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.15 (2012). This appeal follows.

DECISION

Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. If a police officer seizes an individual without a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, then any evidence obtained during the seizure must be suppressed. State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 97 (Minn. 1999). "This court has determined, and the supreme court has affirmed, that in implied consent proceedings the exclusionary rule applies to evidence obtained from an unconstitutional checkpoint." Ascher v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 527 N.W.2d 122, 125 (Minn.App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Mar. 21, 1995). This court "review[s] a district court's determination regarding the legality of an investigatory traffic stop and questions of reasonable suspicion de novo." Wilkes v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 777 N.W.2d 239, 242–43 (Minn.App. 2010).

I.

A person has been seized if, "under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would have believed that because of the conduct of the police he was not free to leave." In re E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 783 (Minn. 1993). In a situation involving an already stopped vehicle, as here, several considerations are relevant for determining whether a seizure occurred. One consideration is the manner in which the police officer approaches the individual. As we stated in Klotz v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety:

It is not a seizure for an officer simply to approach and talk to a person standing in a public place or to a driver seated in an already stopped car. If, however, a suspect is ordered out of a vehicle or the police engage in some other action which one would not expect between two private citizens, such as boxing a car in, it is likely that the event will be considered a fourth amendment seizure.

437 N.W.2d 663, 665 (Minn.App. 1989) (citations omitted). "[T]he use of a squad car to block a parked vehicle generally constitutes a seizure." State v. Lopez, 698 ...


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