TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS

LAWFUL BASIS FOR A VIOLATION OF FAILURE TO MAKE A COMPLETE STOP BEFORE ENTERING INTERSECTION EXISTS WHEN A DRIVER DRIVES PAST STOP LINE OR STOP SIGN BEFORE COMING TO A COMPLETE STOP

Appellant was pulled over for failing to come to a complete stop before a white stop line at a stop sign. Based on Appellant’s lack of physical identification and his answers to the officer’s questions, the officer asked and was permitted to search Appellant’s vehicle. The officer found blank checks, a printer, a computer, and several identification cards for various individuals. Appellant was charged with forgery and giving a false name to a peace officer. The district court found the stop unlawful and suppressed the evidence seized from the vehicle, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

Section 169.30(b) requires every driver of a vehicle to “stop at a stop sign or at a clearly marked stop line before entering the intersection…” The question is whether the statute required Appellant to completely stop before the vehicle crossed the stop line or near the stop line.

The legislature defines “stop” in section 169.011, subd. 79, which, when applied to section 169.30(b), means a vehicle must make a complete cessation from movement “at” a stop sign or stop line. “At,” however, is not defined. The court looks to the dictionary definition of “at,” “expressing location or arrival in a particular place or position,” as well as the common usage of “stop at” in the context of traffic control. Stop lines and stop signs are signals specifying a precise place or position at which a driver must stop to maintain traffic control and safety. Thus, under the plain meaning of the statute, the court holds that section 169.30(b) is violated when the driver of a vehicle drives past the stop sign or stop line before coming to a complete stop.

The parties do not dispute, and the record demonstrates, that Appellant failed to bring his vehicle to a complete stop before driving his vehicle past the stop line and stop sign. Therefore, the officer’s traffic stop was lawful and the district court erred in suppressing evidence seized from Appellant’s vehicle. State v. Gibson, 945 N.W.2d 855 (Minn. July 8, 2020).

JUVENILE

DELINQUENCY ADJUDICATION OR FELONY OFFENSES LISTED IN MINN. STAT. § 624.712, SUBD. 5, ARE “FELONY CONVICTIONS” FOR DETERMINING IF AN OFFENSE IS “CRIME OF VIOLENCE”

As an adult, Appellant was charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, based on a prior fifth-degree controlled substance possession juvenile delinquency adjudication. He pleaded guilty to the firearm offense. His post conviction petition, which was denied by both the district court and Court of Appeals, argues that the fifth-degree controlled substance juvenile delinquency adjudication does not qualify as a crime of violence, because a delinquency adjudication cannot be deemed a conviction of crime under Minn. Stat. § 260B.245.

Possession of a firearm by an ineligible person requires proof that the defendant “has been convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent… for committing… a crime of violence.” Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2). The definition of “crime of violence” includes felony convictions of chapter 152 (drugs, controlled substances). Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5. Section 260B.245, subd. 1(a), states that juvenile delinquency adjudications shall not “be deemed a conviction of crime.” However, section 260B.245, subd. 1(b), provides an exception, stating that persons adjudicated delinquent for crimes of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subd. 5, are not entitled to possess firearms. Reading these subsections together, the Minnesota Supreme Court concludes that a juvenile delinquency adjudication for felony-level offenses listed in section 624.712, subd. 5, may be deemed “felony convictions” and meet the statutory definition of crime of violence.

Appellant admitted he had been adjudicated delinquent for committing fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, which is a felony-level offense listed in section 624.712, subd. 5. Thus, there was a sufficient factual basis for Appellant’s guilty plea to possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. Roberts v. State, 945 N.W.2d 850 (Minn. July 8, 2020).

FIREARMS

A MOTOR VEHICLE ON A PUBLIC HIGHWAY IS IN A “PUBLIC PLACE”

Police observed a vehicle swerving in and out of traffic on a public highway and pulled it over. The driver, Respondent, admitted to consuming alcohol and failed field sobriety tests, and was arrested for DWI. Respondent asked the officer to retrieve his wallet and keys from the vehicle, describing the phone as in the center console, next to his gun. The officer found the keys, wallet, and gun. Respondent was charged with DWI and carrying a pistol while under the influence of alcohol.

Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 1, prohibits carrying a pistol on or about one’s clothes or person in a public place while under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substances. The district court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause, finding the center console of Respondent’s vehicle is not a “public place.”

The Court of Appeals previously held that “public place” in section 624.712, subd. 1, is ambiguous, and defined “public place” as “generally an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, whether by payment of money or not.” State v. Grandishar, 765 N.W.2d 901, 903 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009).

The court finds that the proper focus of the analysis is not Respondent’s vehicle, but the public highway on which Respondent drove his vehicle, by looking to the “mischief to be remedied” by section 624.712, subd. 1, which is the danger to the public inherent in firearm possession while impaired. The court holds that, for purposes of section 624.712, subd. 1, a personal vehicle operated on a public highway is a mode of transportation and cannot be considered a private place. Thus, the district court erred in dismissing the charge against the Respondent of carrying a firearm in a public place while under the influence of alcohol. State v. Serbus, 947 N.W.2d 690 (Minn. Ct. App. July 13, 2020).

SEARCH AND SEIZURE

WARRANT MISIDENTIFYING PERSON TO BE SEARCHED DOES NOT LACK SUFFICIENT PARTICULARITY IF WARRANT AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS PROVIDE SUFFICIENT CORRECT IDENTIFYING INFORMATION, THERE IS NO REASONABLE PROBABILITY THE WRONG PERSON COULD BE SEARCHED, AND THE CORRECT PERSON WAS SEARCHED

Appellant collided with another vehicle on a highway, causing the death of the other vehicle’s driver and injuries to Appellant. Appellant denied drinking but admitted to smoking marijuana before the accident. Appellant was taken to a hospital while police obtained a warrant to search Appellant’s blood or urine. The detective who drafted the warrant did not have Appellant’s name and entered the name of the vehicle’s registered owner, Appellant’s father, into the warrant. The warrant also stated the person to be searched was the only occupant and driver of the vehicle, the driver admitted to smoking marijuana, and referenced the “attached affidavit.” The affidavit was from the sergeant on the scene who spoke with Appellant and correctly identified Appellant. A judge issued a warrant and it was taken to the hospital. The deputy at the hospital noticed the warrant incorrectly identified Appellant and the detective left to retrieve a corrected warrant. While the detective was doing so, the deputy obtained a urine sample from hospital staff and, shortly thereafter, a warrant correctly identifying Appellant was brought to the hospital. Testing of Appellant’s urine sample revealed the presence of marijuana. The district court denied Appellant’s motion to suppress the urine test results, finding the error in the warrant in effect at the time Appellant’s urine was collected did not invalidate the warrant, because it created no reasonable possibility the police would search the wrong person. Appellant was found guilty after a stipulated facts bench trial.

Search warrants must particularly describe the place to be searched, but errors in the description of the place to be searched do not necessarily invalidate a warrant. The description of the place to be searched must be “sufficient so that the executing officer can locate and identify the premises with reasonable effort with no reasonable probability that other premises might be mistakenly searched.” The court may consider the warrant, warrant application, supporting affidavits if they are expressly incorporated into and attached to the warrant, and the circumstances of the case, including the executing officer’s personal knowledge of the place to be searched and whether the correct place was actually searched.

Here, the wrong person was identified in the warrant, but the warrant and its supporting documents contained correct information pointing to Appellant. The officers at the hospital also knew who was to be searched and his location, and the correct person was, in fact, searched. Thus, “the warrant’s error presented no reasonable probability that the wrong person would be mistakenly searched.” The warrant identified the person to be searched with sufficient particularity, and the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s motion to suppress. State v. Wilde, 947 N.W.2d 473 (Minn. Ct. App. July 13, 2020).

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