Statutes- like the sculptures?

January 04, 2021

Many people know the basic laws they should not break. Try not to speed. Do your best to stop at every stop sign. And for the love of God, never jaywalk. What most people do not know, however, is all of these basic laws have an accompanying statute that provides the ability for the laws to be enforced. Put plainly, criminal statutes provide what is against the law and how the law can be enforced in a detailed manner. Unfortunately, this detail can become more confusing than anything else. Interpreting the different language used can often be a troubling conundrum for an everyday citizen to analyze. An attorney can be a helpful resource in this analysis. While no attorney will ever claim to know all of the statutes in the world; they will be able to explain what each statute means. 

Sometimes the language in a statute can play into your benefit when faced with a criminal charge. This exact scenario occurred this past summer in State v. Gibson, to begin with, at least. Darryl Gibson was driving his vehicle eastbound on Interstate 90 in Worthington, MN when he decided to exit off to Highway 59. Before proceeding onto Highway 59, Mr. Gibson had to complete a stop when he reached a stop sign. Mr. Gibson attempted to complete a proper stop. This stop, however, was past the painted stop line associated with the stop sign. A nearby officer saw this and initiated a traffic stop for Mr. Gibson’s violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.30(b). The statutory provision states, in part, that, “[e]very driver of a vehicle shall stop at a stop sign or a clearly marked stop line before entering the intersection . . . .” Minn. Stat. § 169.30(b). During the traffic stop, the officer received permission to search Mr. Gibson’s vehicle, which resulted in the officer finding items related to forgery. Mr. Gibson was subsequently charged with felony forgery 

Mr. Gibson’s attorney challenged whether the police officer’s stop of Mr. Gibson was lawful. Police officers are required to have lawful authority to stop an individual. If an officer witnesses an individual violating the law, they have the requisite authority -probable cause- to stop that individual. Mr. Gibson’s attorney argued that Mr. Gibson did not violate Minn. Stat. § 169.30(b), as he did, in fact, stop his vehicle and therefore did not provide the officer with lawful authority to stop him. 

A Nobles County Judge agreed that Mr. Gibson did not violate the statute, and granted the motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the stop and vehicle search. The Judge interpreted the statute to mean that an individual was required to stop at the intersection, not at the stop sign or stop line. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ultimately reversed this decision, which the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed on Mr. Gibson’s appeal. Nonetheless, this case shows how a basic violation of a traffic law does not mean your ability to challenge the charge is gone. Hiring an effective, detail orientated criminal defense attorney can make the difference in making these types of challenges successfully.

Contact Private Criminal Defense Attorney Alec Rolain of Fowler Ditsch, LLC, to inquire about representation in your alleged criminal matter. Fowler Ditsch, LLC, has represented clients in criminal proceedings for 20 + years. Contact us by email at or phone at 651-287-8883.

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