County District Court File No. 30-CR-16-562
Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; Jeffrey
Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, Cambridge, Minnesota; and
Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul,
Minnesota (for respondent)
P. Sarratori, Mesenbourg & Sarratori Law Offices, P.A.,
Coon Rapids, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Florey, Presiding Judge; Ross,
Judge; and Reyes, Judge.
police officer who stopped a car being driven with a cracked
windshield, but who identified no circumstances to indicate
that he reasonably suspected that the crack limited or
obstructed the driver's vision under Minnesota Statutes,
section 169.71, subdivision 1(a)(1) (2018), has not
established that he had reasonable suspicion to stop the car.
Poehler appeals from his convictions of driving while
impaired and violating a driver's license restriction,
arguing that the officer who stopped him lacked reasonable
suspicion to constitutionally justify the stop. Poehler
correctly argues that the officer who observed only that his
windshield was "cracked" provided insufficient
detail to support a reasonable suspicion that the crack
obstructed Poehler's vision in violation of the
obstructed-vision statute. The district court therefore
wrongly relied on the observation to validate the stop. We
nevertheless affirm Poehler's convictions because the
officer had reasonable suspicion to stop him for not wearing
a seat belt.
August 2016 Cambridge police officer Mathew Giese saw a car
being driven with a cracked windshield and noticed that the
driver was not wearing a seat belt. Officer Giese made a
U-turn and stopped the car. The officer spoke with the
driver, James Poehler, who avoided direct eye contact and
slurred his words. Officer Giese discovered that Poehler had
a restricted license that prohibited him from using drugs or
alcohol. Poehler admitted to drinking alcohol. Officer Giese
administered a preliminary breath test showing Poehler's
blood-alcohol content to be 0.174.
state charged Poehler with driving while impaired and
violating a driver's license restriction. Poehler moved
the district court to suppress all evidence obtained after
the stop, contending that the officer stopped him without
reasonable suspicion. The district court denied the motion.
Poehler and the state agreed to a stipulated-evidence trial
under Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 26.01, subdivision
4. The district court found Poehler guilty of both charges.
a police officer who observes a car operating with a crack in
its windshield, regardless of the extent of the crack, have
reasonable suspicion to stop the car for violating the
obstructed-vision prohibition ...