County District Court File No. 71-VB-15-3373
Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Derek T.
Archambault, Hawkins & Baumgartner, P.A., Anoka,
Minnesota (for respondent).
D. Ellenbecker, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Cleary, Chief Judge; Worke, Judge;
and Ross, Judge.
police officer's controlled testing of a handheld laser
speed-measuring device to establish that it is accurately
measuring distance to a stationary object satisfies the
foundational external-test requirement of Minnesota Statutes
section 169.14, subdivision 10(a) (2014), allowing the
district court to admit into evidence the officer's
testimony of the device's speed readings.
police officer used a handheld laser device and clocked Shane
Olson's car at 70 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour
zone. Olson challenged the ticket in court and objected to
the admission of the officer's testimony of his speed. He
argued that the officer's external testing of the laser
unit failed to verify its reliability because the
officer's testing proved only that the unit accurately
measures distance, and speed depends on an accurate measure
of both time and distance. The district court overruled the
objection and found Olson guilty. Because the officer's
external test verified not only that the laser unit was
measuring distance accurately but also implicitly verified
that it was measuring time accurately, the district court did
not abuse its discretion by admitting the officer's
testimony of the speed-device evidence, and we affirm.
River police officer Andrew Zabee ticketed Shane Olson for
speeding in July 2015. Officer Zabee testified at Olson's
bench trial that Olson's car was traveling in a
55-mile-per-hour zone when the officer's handheld laser
device indicated that Olson was moving at 70 miles per hour.
Olson objected to the officer's testimony, contending
that it lacked a proper evidentiary foundation, and the
district court sustained the objection. The prosecutor
questioned Officer Zabee further, and the officer testified
that he was trained to use the laser device, that his car was
stationary when he encountered Olson's car, that he
pointed the laser device out his open window to avoid any
distortion, and that the weather conditions were suitable for
interference-free measurements by the device.
again objected for lack of foundation, arguing that the
officer's testimony failed to satisfy the external-test
requirements of Minnesota Statutes section 169.14,
subdivision 10(a)(4), which allows an officer to testify to a
reading from a speed-testing device only if the officer first
establishes that he performed an external test to verify that
the device was functioning reliably. The district court asked
Officer Zabee, "Are there any external tests done on
this laser that you're aware of?" The officer
answered, "No." The district court implicitly
agreed with Olson that the state had not laid the proper
prosecutor questioned Officer Zabee again. The officer
testified that the device ran its own internal test when he
activated it. He then performed an external "distance
check." He explained that he successfully performed the
distance check by targeting an object at a known distance
from the unit, triggering the unit, and verifying that the
distance displayed on the unit accurately matched the known
distance. The district court then accepted the officer's
testimony that the laser unit calculated Olson's speed at
70 miles per hour.
cross-examined Officer Zabee. The officer admitted that he
performed no separate test to establish that the device
accurately measures speed. Olson again raised his
foundational challenge and argued that the officer's
testimony did not satisfy the statute because speed is
calculated based on distance and time, not just
distance. The prosecutor argued that the state has
"never been required to prove up some sort ...