Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DWI Law - Minnesota OKs Stop From Stale Computer records

In State of Minnesota v. Nelson, Not Reported in N.W.2d, 2011 WL 6015167 (Minn.App.) a police officer ran the plates of a vehicle and the computer reported the plates expired, even though the plates appeared to have valid and current tags. The cop stopped the car, and determined that the tags were valid, but that the records of the Department of Public safety were not current (by several days). During the stop Deputy Silgjord noticed indicia of intoxication and arrested appellant for driving while impaired. Appellant was charged with first-degree driving while impaired and first-degree driving while impaired (over .08). Appellant moved to suppress the evidence from the stop, arguing that the stop was unconstitutional. The district court upheld the stop and denied appellant's motion and this appeal followed.

In denying the appeal, the majority wrote:

"We recently held that a discrepancy between displayed license-plate tabs and information derived from an officer's onboard computer system constitutes an objectively reasonable basis to initiate an investigatory stop. State v. Cox, ––– N.W.2d ––––, ––––, 2011 WL 5903399, at *1(Minn.App. Nov. 28, 2011). Our holding in Cox compels a similar result here. Upon observing a discrepancy between the displayed license-plate tabs on appellant's vehicle and the information contained in the state's computer database, the officer had an objectively reasonable basis for the stop. The district court therefore did not err by denying appellant's suppression motion."

The dissent wrote:

"[T]he United States Supreme Court has held:

[E]xcept in those situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed or that an automobile is not registered, or that either the vehicle or an occupant is otherwise subject to seizure for violation of law, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver in order to check his driver's license and the registration of the automobile are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

 Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 663, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1401 (1979). Investigatory stops to check a vehicle's registration are therefore unconstitutional, unless supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion. By allowing an officer to stop a vehicle that is displaying current, legally purchased, properly affixed registration tabs, the majority has upheld a stop based upon the state's failure to keep its records current. I am aware of no published caselaw—save for this court's recently released opinion in Cox—allowing the police to conduct a seizure based solely on a delayed updating of the state computer system.FN2 Yet that is precisely what the majority has done, first in Cox and again here. I wish to take no part in the upholding of this stop."

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