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Appeals court rejects Woodbury man's contention in revocation case

A Minnesota appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to revoke the driver’s license of a Woodbury man who claimed he was unlawfully seized during a 2012 investigatory traffic stop.

The case, brought by Mitchell James Luebbe, argued that a Woodbury police officer acted outside the boundaries of law Aug. 12, 2012, when he pulled up alongside Luebbe’s parked vehicle after receiving a tip about an underage drinking party occurring nearby.

The officer approached Luebbe and questioned him after smelling alcohol coming from the vehicle and observing Luebbe’s bloodshot and watery eyes, according to the summary of facts in the unpublished appeals court opinion. Luebbe, who was 20 years old at the time, admitted to having four beers and was arrested on suspicion of DWI after tests revealed his blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit, records state.

Luebbe later petitioned for judicial review of the license revocation, which was sustained by a Washington County District Court judge.

In his appeal to the higher court, Luebbe argued that the seizure was unlawful when the officer approached his car while investigating the underage party report.

The three-judge panel disagreed with each of Luebbe’s contentions in the opinion, which was issued Monday, July 1.

The court found that the citizen informant’s tip on the underage party lawfully precipitated the investigation of the incident, which was further bolstered by evidence – discarded cups and other debris – found near the site of the report.

The illegal seizure claim was also rejected, with the court opining that the officer, Marc Olson, “merely approached an occupied car sitting close to an area where a party had been reported to question the driver.” Olson’s brief investigation into Luebbe’s activity was supported by the citizen’s tip that was confirmed by “party debris,” the time of day – 1:45 a.m. – and the fact that Luebbe’s car was parked near the reported party location.

The court also rejected claims the informant’s tip was too vague. Once Olson went to the site and found evidence of a party, “the additional facts provided a basis for the seizure for suspected DWI.”

“The general smell of alcohol, appellant’s bloodshot and watery eyes, and his admission that he had four beers provided a sufficient basis for his arrest for DWI and the revocation of his driver’s license,” the appeals court wrote.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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