DWI: TOTALITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND RATIONAL INFERENCES DRAWN FROM THEM MUST BE EXAMINED TO DETERMINE REASONABLE, ARTICULABLE SUSPICION OF INTOXICATION

Appellant was convicted of first-degree DWI and driving with an open bottle of alcohol. He argues the arresting deputy impermissibly expanded the scope of the initial stop of Appellant’s truck when the deputy asked him if he had consumed any beer from the open case in his truck. The Supreme Court affirms the Court of Appeals and district court’s rejections of Appellant’s argument, finding the deputy had a reasonable, articulable suspicion of other criminal activity sufficient to expand the scope of the traffic stop.

Appellant was first pulled over because his truck did not have a front license plate and the back plate was covered in snow. When the deputy cleared snow off the rear plate, he found that the tabs were expired. After approaching Appellant, the deputy noticed an open case of beer, with some cans missing, in the back seat of his truck. Upon running the truck’s registration, the deputy found Appellant’s license was cancelled as inimical to public safety. Appellant confirmed he was aware of his license status and, after being asked by the deputy, admitted to drinking some cans of beer. Two empty cans of beer were later found near the truck’s passenger seat.

The deputy had a legitimate reason to initially stop Appellant’s truck. He was permitted to ask for and search records relating to Appellant’s driver’s license and truck registration. The challenged expansion of the stop is the point at which the deputy asked Appellant if he had been drinking. He asked this question after observing the case of beer with missing cans and learning Appellant’s license was cancelled as inimical to public safety, which the deputy testified he knew was likely to mean Appellant was a repeat DWI offender. The court finds that the combination of these facts established a sufficient reasonable, articulable suspicion that Appellant was driving while intoxicated, even in the absence of any noted physical indicia of impairment. State v. Taylor, A20-0245, 2021 WL 4765700 (Minn. Oct. 13, 2021).

chevron-upmenuphone