This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







State of Minnesota,


Charles Leonard Thomas,

Filed February 6, 2001


Peterson, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. 26235


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55103-2106; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN  55487 (for appellant)


Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN  55401 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On appeal from a pretrial order suppressing marijuana seized pursuant to a search warrant, appellant State of Minnesota argues that the district court erred in concluding that the discovery of marijuana residue in garbage from the building where respondent Charles Leonard Thomas resides did not sufficiently corroborate an informant’s tip.  We affirm.


            Eden Prairie police detective Brian Blanch received information from an unnamed informant that an individual named Chuck Thomas was selling large quantities of marijuana from his residence and that Thomas lived in the area of 33rd Street and Third Avenue South in Minneapolis.  An officer drove the informant to that area, and the informant identified the building located at 3245 Third Avenue South as Thomas’s residence.  Department of motor vehicle and police department records showed that Charles Leonard Thomas resided at 3245 Third Avenue South in apartment number three.

            Blanch searched through garbage from the building where Thomas resides.  He found “identification of Thomas along with numerous baggies with marijuana residue, numerous marijuana stems and a scale used typically for weighing drugs.”  The next week, Blanch again searched through garbage from the building.  In one garbage bag, Blanch found a paper item with the name Chuck Thomas on it along with numerous cut plastic sandwich bags.  A corner remaining on one of the bags tested positive for cocaine.

            A magistrate issued a warrant to search Thomas’s residence for controlled substances, including cocaine and marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and other items associated with drug trafficking.

            In granting Thomas’s motion to suppress, the district court stated:

This Court finds that the affidavit of Officer Brian Blanch does not contain sufficient information from or about the informant so as to support the warrant.  There must be information that demonstrates what the informant knows and why he or she claims to know what is related.  Further, items discovered by Officer Blanch in the garbage outside of the apartment building at 3245 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis * * * are not enough to corroborate the confidential informant’s statements to Officer Blanch.  Likewise, the search of the garbage and the materials discovered therein are not enough to independently support the search warrant in this case.



            In a pretrial appeal, this court will reverse the district court’s suppression of evidence only if the state demonstrates clearly and unequivocally that (1) the district court erred in its judgment and (2) the error will have a critical impact on the outcome of the trial.  State v. Joon Kyu Kim, 398 N.W.2d 544, 547, 551 (Minn. 1987).  The parties agree that suppression of the marijuana will have a critical impact because it will result in dismissal of the charges against Thomas, so the only issue is whether the state has shown clearly and unequivocally that the district court erred in suppressing the evidence.

            Evidence obtained by a search and seizure that violates a defendant’s constitutional rights is inadmissible.  State v. Mathison, 263 N.W.2d 61, 63 (Minn. 1978).  Both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions require the existence of probable cause for a search warrant to be issued.  Id.

            A reviewing court must give deference to the magistrate’s determination of probable cause.  State v. Albrecht, 465 N.W.2d 107, 108 (Minn. App. 1991).  “[T]he resolution of doubtful or marginal cases should be ‘largely determined by the preference to be accorded to warrants.’”  State v. McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d 700, 704 (Minn. 1990) (quoting United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 109, 85 S. Ct. 741, 746 (1965)).  The deference accorded to the magistrate’s decision, however, is not unlimited:

Sufficient information must be presented to the magistrate to allow that official to determine probable cause; his action cannot be a mere ratification of the bare conclusions of others.  In order to ensure that such an abdication of the magistrate’s duty does not occur, courts must continue to conscientiously review the sufficiency of affidavits on which warrants are issued.


Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 239, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2333 (1983).

            The Supreme Court has adopted a totality-of-the-circumstances test to determine whether there is probable cause to issue a search warrant.  Id. at 238-39, 103 S. Ct. at 2332; see also Albrecht, 465 N.W.2d at 108-09 (Minnesota courts apply the same test under the state constitution).

The task of the issuing magistrate is simply to make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him, including the “veracity” and “basis of knowledge” of persons supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.


Gates, 462 U.S. at 238, 103 S. Ct. at 2332.  In reviewing the sufficiency of the affidavit, a court must review the affidavit as a whole, not each component in isolation.  State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 268 (Minn. 1985).

            Here, the only indicia of the informant’s credibility were the fact that the informant met face-to-face with officers and Blanch’s corroboration of Thomas’s address.  There was no information about the informant’s motive for providing information about Thomas or the informant’s reason for not disclosing his or her identity, and the information provided was not detailed.  See McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d at 703-04 (discussing factors relevant in assessing informant’s credibility); State v. Lindquist, 295 Minn. 398, 400-01, 205 N.W.2d 333, 335 (1973) (detailed information provided by informant indicated reliability).  As the state concedes, the information provided by the informant and corroboration of Thomas’s address were insufficient to establish probable cause.  See Albrecht, 465 N.W.2d at 109 (anonymous caller’s tip and corroboration of defendant’s address and ownership of a truck were insufficient to establish probable cause).

            The state argues that the items discovered in the garbage from Thomas’s apartment building, documents identifying Thomas, baggies containing cocaine and marijuana residue, and drug paraphernalia, provided sufficient corroboration of the informant’s tip to establish probable cause.  We disagree.  The affidavit supporting the search warrant application does not indicate whether the garbage bags that were searched were bags for individual apartment units or communal bags for use by all units, and the affidavit does not indicate whether the bags were tied or sealed in any manner.  Without information indicating that the garbage bags in which the controlled substances and paraphernalia were discovered were bags used exclusively by Thomas, there is no basis for concluding that those items came from Thomas’s apartment and not from other units in the building.