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State v. McCabe

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

February 6, 2017

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Catherine Nyree McCabe, Respondent.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-15-34540

         Reversed and remanded

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Zenaida Chico, Assistant City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Mary F. Moriarty, Fourth District Public Defender, Laura Heinrich, Assistant Public Defender, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Jesson, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minnesota Statutes section 169.48, subdivision 1(a) (2014), requires drivers to display lighted headlamps and lighted tail lamps at any time when it is raining, regardless of visibility.

          OPINION

          SCHELLHAS, Judge

         In this state's pretrial appeal, appellant argues that the district court erred by suppressing evidence obtained after the stop of respondent's vehicle. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         On December 8, 2015, Minneapolis Police Officers Douglas Lemons and Kyle Ruud were patrolling in their squad car near Penn Avenue. Shortly before 12:30 p.m., while it was raining lightly, the officers observed a Chevrolet van that was being driven without lighted headlamps and lighted tail lamps. They pulled behind the van and briefly followed it. When the van pulled over to the curb, the officers initiated a traffic stop. Respondent Catherine McCabe was the van's driver. During the stop, McCabe informed the officers that a handgun was located in the van's middle console. The officers recovered the handgun, which McCabe admitted belonged to her. McCabe did not have a permit to carry the handgun.

         The state charged McCabe with possessing a pistol without a permit in violation of Minnesota Statutes section 624.714, subdivision 1a (2014). McCabe moved the district court to suppress the evidence obtained from the stop, arguing that the officers did not reasonably suspect that she was committing a traffic violation when they stopped her. At the suppression hearing, both officers testified and a video recording of the traffic stop was played. Officer Lemons stated that he stopped the van because he believed its headlamps and tail lamps were not lighted while it was raining and because the driver did not signal her move to the curb. But Officer Lemons admitted that he was wrong about the failure to signal and agreed that the video recording shows that McCabe did signal when she pulled over to the side of the road.

         The district court concluded that the officers did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that McCabe was violating Minnesota Statutes section 169.48, subdivision 1(a), when the officers stopped her, stating:

While Minnesota Law mandates that a car display lighted headlamps and tail lamps at any time it is raining, the statute also mandates that lighted headlamps and tail lamps are required at any time visibility is impaired or there is "not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead." Minn. Stat. 169.48(1)(a). Reading the statute as a whole, the intent of the law is to require headlight and taillight illumination when visibility is obscured by a distance of 500 feet ahead. The statute does not define "raining" but the squad video shows that it is very lightly ...

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