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Unsteady walk in bar district leads to Minnesota DWI traffic stop

Unsteady walk in bar district leads to Minnesota DWI traffic stop

A Mankato Police officer on foot patrol in Mankato’s downtown bar district saw a woman walking in March 2010 and the officer concluded that the woman’s gait was suspicious. The foot patrol officer continued on his way and spoke to another person in downtown Mankato. While speaking with that person, the officer claims that he heard a car door slam in a nearby parking lot.

The officer apparently thought the woman with an “almost floppy footed” gait and the slamming car door were linked together. The cop testified in a pre-trial hearing that he believed the woman was drunk based upon her deliberate gait and that she was going to drive based upon the sound of a car door. The officer had difficulty explaining on the witness stand what he found suspicious in the woman’s “deliberate” or “almost floppy footed” gait.

He and a second officer walked to the parking ramp and eventually stopped a car pulling away from the ramp. The police ultimately arrested the woman driving that car on suspicion of DWI. Authorities charged the 26-year-old woman with multiple counts of DWI, including charges enhanced to the gross misdemeanor level based upon allegations that the recent case was a DWI second offense.

The woman argued that surveillance videos recorded near the scene do not show any unusual gate and that police did not have the constitutional authority to make the traffic stop. The trial judge did not find the video helpful and found the officer’s testimony credible. The court ultimately found the woman guilty of gross misdemeanor DWI.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently upheld the woman’s conviction in an unpublished decision, concluding that the officer’s “observation of appellant’s manner of walking in a bar-district area at 1:30 a.m. was sufficient to support a reasonable suspicion that appellant was intoxicated and to justify the vehicle stop.”

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