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Kruse v. Commissioner of Public Safety

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 8, 2018

Philip George Kruse, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Respondent, and State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Philip George Kruse, Appellant.

         Renville County District Court File Nos. 65-CV-16-161, 65-CR-16-323

          Robert D. Schaps, Schaps Law Office, Litchfield, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saraswati D. Singh, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and David Jon Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Olivia, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Driving a vehicle on a marking that delineates a lane for traffic constitutes movement from the lane within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a) (2016).

          OPINION

          LARKIN, JUDGE

         In this consolidated appeal, appellant challenges his conviction of driving while impaired and the revocation of his license to drive. He argues that the underlying traffic stop was unconstitutional and that the district court therefore erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the stop and by sustaining the attendant license revocation. Because the traffic stop was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Philip George Kruse with two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired (DWI), and respondent Commissioner of Public Safety revoked Kruse's license to drive, following Kruse's arrest for DWI. Kruse moved to suppress the evidence supporting the charges, arguing that he was unlawfully seized without reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Kruse also petitioned for rescission of the license revocation on the same ground. The district court held a combined hearing on Kruse's suppression motion and implied-consent petition. Officer Lucas Jacques of the Renville County Sheriff's Office testified at the hearing, and a squad video of the underlying traffic stop was received as evidence. The district court found that the video evidence did not contradict the officer's testimony and that the relevant facts based on that testimony were as follows.

         On September 22, 2016 at approximately 11:50 p.m., Officer Jacques was on routine patrol traveling north on County Road 24 when he observed a vehicle approximately one mile in front of him traveling in the same direction. Officer Jacques was patrolling that location because there had been parties there in the past.[1] Officer Jacques caught up to the vehicle, and when he was approximately three car lengths behind the vehicle, he observed it move right and onto the fog line, [2] but not over the fog line. Officer Jacques then observed the vehicle move left and onto the center line, but not over the center line. Officer Jacques initiated a traffic stop and identified Kruse as the driver of the vehicle. Kruse performed poorly on field sobriety tests, and Officer Jacques arrested him for DWI.

         The district court denied Kruse's motion to suppress and sustained the revocation of his license to drive. Kruse stipulated to the prosecution's case under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4, to obtain review of the suppression ruling, and the district court found him guilty of fourth-degree DWI. Kruse separately appealed the judgment of conviction (A17-0564) and the order sustaining the revocation of his license to drive (A17-0552). This court consolidated the appeals.[3]

         ISSUE

         Does driving a vehicle on a marking that delineates a lane for traffic constitute movement from the lane within the meaning ...


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