IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
June 19, 2001
Reversed and remanded
County District Court
File No. K3001172
Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN
C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Scott A. Hersey, Assistant County
Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN
55033 (for appellant)
Nichols, 1971 Seneca Road, Suite A, Eagan, MN
55122 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Schumacher,
Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.
Y L L A B U S
no-knock provision in a search warrant is void because it is not supported by a
sufficient showing, but the police knock and announce before executing the
warrant, the district court should not suppress the evidence seized in the
search if there is otherwise probable cause to justify the search.
O P I N I O N
The district court determined that a no-knock search warrant executed at
respondent Janet K. Anhalt’s residence was improperly issued because the
warrant application lacked sufficient facts to justify an unannounced entry.
The district court granted Anhalt’s motion to suppress and dismissed
appellant state’s case against Anhalt, despite the fact that the officers
knocked and announced before executing the warrant.
We reverse and remand.
In April 2000, South St. Paul Police Officer Sneitzer investigated “possible drug sales or usage” at respondent Janet K. Anhalt’s residence. Sneitzer initiated this investigation because he had received complaints “about heavy traffic of persons coming and going” from Anhalt’s residence. On April 20, 2000, Sneitzer applied for a warrant to search Anhalt’s residence. In the application, Sneitzer indicated that Anhalt was involved in the sale and/or use of narcotics. He also stated that within 24 hours prior to applying for the warrant, he had searched Anhalt’s garbage and found items indicative of methamphetamine use. These items included charred pieces of aluminum foil and clear plastic sandwich bags. The Minneapolis Health Lab analyzed these items and detected methamphetamine in one of the clear plastic bags.
Sneitzer requested authorization to enter Anhalt’s residence unannounced, claiming it would be necessary
to prevent the loss, destruction or removal of the objects of the search [and] to protect the safety of the peace officers * * * because: drugs are easily disposable, and through previous experience, I have learned that [d]rug dealers are known to possess firearms to protect their interest.
On April 20, 2000, the district court issued a search warrant authorizing an unannounced entry.
Officers arrived at Anhalt’s residence on April 27, 2000, at approximately 6:00 p.m., to execute the warrant. Sneitzer and Burnsville police officer Jeffrey Pfaff both testified that Sneitzer knocked loudly on Anhalt’s metal porch door. Sneitzer yelled out, “Police, search warrant.” When no one answered, the officers entered the porch through the metal door. Upon entering the porch, they noticed a second door leading directly into Anhalt’s house, which was ajar. The officers entered this second door without knocking. Once inside the house, the officers announced that they were police officers executing a search warrant. Anhalt was in the home during the search. Anhalt’s children testified that they were also in the home when the warrant was executed, but did not hear the officers knock before entering. Inside Anhalt’s residence, the officers found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
April 28, 2000, Anhalt was charged with one count of third-degree controlled
substance crime and one count of fourth-degree controlled substance crime.
On August 11, 2000, Anhalt filed a motion to suppress the evidence taken
from her home during the police search, contending that the search warrant
lacked sufficient justification for an unannounced entry.
On August 18 and 28, 2000, a contested omnibus hearing was held.
On December 21, 2000, the district court issued an order (1) concluding
that the no-knock warrant was improperly issued in violation of Anhalt’s
Fourth Amendment rights and (2)
suppressing the evidence seized during the search.
Regarding the sufficiency of information contained in the search warrant application, the district court found that the “application for the search warrant contained boilerplate language in support of a request for a no-knock entry.” The court also found that there was an insufficient showing in the application that an announced entry would result in the destruction of evidence or in danger to the officers executing the warrant. But the court found
the residence, the officers knocked on the screen door leading to the front
porch of [Anhalt’s] home. The
officers knocked several times and announced their entry by calling “Police,
search warrant” as they entered the home.
The district court did not make a finding as to whether
sufficient facts had been presented to the magistrate to support a finding of
probable cause to search the home.
Did the district court clearly err in suppressing evidence seized from Anhalt’s house where the search warrant contained a void no-knock provision, but the police knocked and announced their entry before conducting the search?
Normally [an appellate] court will only reverse a pre-trial decision of the [district] court suppressing evidence if the State demonstrates clearly and unequivocally that the [district] court has erred in its judgment and that, unless reversed, the error will have a critical impact on the outcome of the trial.
v. Othoudt, 482
N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992) (citation and quotation
omitted). “[T]he critical
impact of the suppression must be first determined before deciding whether the
suppression order was made in error.” State
v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted). Here, the district court’s decision to suppress evidence
terminated the state’s case against Anhalt and therefore, the suppression will
have a critical impact. See
State v. Kim, 398 N.W.2d 544, 551 (Minn. 1987) (stating critical impact has
been shown in cases “where the lack of the suppressed evidence completely
destroys the state’s case,” and “in those cases where the lack of the
suppressed evidence significantly reduces the likelihood of a successful
“When reviewing the legality of a seizure or
search, an appellate court will not reverse the [district] court’s findings
unless clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” In re Welfare of G.M., 560
N.W.2d 687, 690 (Minn. 1997) (citation omitted).
But where “[t]he district court’s order is based upon an
interpretation of law” the appellate court’s “review [is] de novo.” State v. Robb, 605 N.W.2d 96, 99-100 (Minn. 2000)
Here a factual dispute existed: the police
testified that they knocked loudly before entering Anhalt’s home, but her
children testified that they did not hear any knocking and that they would have
heard it if the police had knocked. The
trial court’s finding that the police knocked is supported by the record and
is not clearly erroneous.
In determining whether the
district court’s application of the law was correct, the proper inquiry begins
with an analysis of the warrant application.
Police seeking a search warrant authorizing an unannounced entry “must
inform the issuing magistrate of the circumstances which they believe justify
the unannounced entry and obtain specific advance authorization for it.”
State v. Lien, 265 N.W.2d 833, 838 (Minn. 1978).
The police are required to make a strong showing “that an announced
entry will result in the destruction of evidence or in danger to the officers
executing the warrant.” Id. The
police “must do more than simply make a showing that drugs are involved.”
boilerplate language without particularized reasons for an unannounced entry is
insufficient to show that an announced entry “would be dangerous or allow the
destruction of evidence.” State v. Wasson, 615 N.W.2d 316, 320 (Minn. 2000); see
State v. Martinez, 579 N.W.2d 144, 147-48 (Minn. App. 1998) (finding that
officer’s statement that “because of his experience he knew that the
occupants would likely have and use weapons” was a generalization), review
denied (Minn. July 16, 1998).
In requesting a no-knock warrant, Sneitzer merely made general
observations, regarding what drug dealers are known to do and how drugs may be
discarded easily, none of which were specific to Anhalt.
Accordingly, the district court correctly concluded that the no-knock
request was improperly granted.
We disagree, however, with the district court’s conclusion that because
the no-knock warrant was improperly issued, the entire search of Anhalt’s
house was tainted, particularly where the police adhered to knock-and-announce
procedures prior to conducting the search.
Before executing a search warrant, officers must knock, identify
themselves as law-enforcement officers, and state that they have a search
warrant. See State v. Linder, 291 Minn. 217, 219, 190
N.W.2d 91, 93 (1971).
the present case, the district court found that before the officers entered
Anhalt’s residence they knocked and that as they entered they “announced
their entry by calling ‘Police, search warrant.’”
Because the officers knocked and announced their entry, we conclude that
the factual situation is the equivalent to one in which a search is executed
pursuant to a warrant without a no-knock provision.
Consequently, if the magistrate properly found probable cause to issue
the warrant, the evidence should not be suppressed.
See State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 268 (Minn. 1985)
(reviewing courts should defer to a magistrate’s determination of probable
cause). If, on the other hand, the magistrate did not have sufficient
information to make a finding of probable cause, the district court’s decision
to suppress should be affirmed. The
trial court did not make a finding on whether the magistrate had sufficient
facts to find probable cause. Therefore
we reverse the district court’s decision suppressing the evidence and remand
for findings on the issue of whether sufficient facts were presented to the
magistrate to support a finding of probable cause to issue the warrant without a
We reverse and remand this case for the district court to determine
whether the magistrate properly found probable cause to issue the search
Reversed and remanded.
Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court
of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.