This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota,





Steven Joseph Johnson,



Filed July 17, 2001

Klaphake, Judge


Beltrami County District Court

File No. K50013


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Angela M. Helseth, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, 619 Beltrami Avenue N.W., Bemidji, MN 56601 (for respondent)


Tom Kuesel, 522 Beltrami Avenue N.W., #110, P.O. Box 543, Bemidji, MN 56619‑0543 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant Steven Johnson, convicted of second-degree controlled substance crime, Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subds. 2(1), 3(6) (2000), argues that the police impermissibly obtained evidence of the crime during a prolonged traffic stop.  Because the controlled substance evidence would inevitably have been discovered when appellant was arrested on an outstanding warrant, we affirm.


            Evidence otherwise excluded by the exclusionary rule is admissible under an exception to that rule where it would inevitably have been discovered by legal means.  Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 444, 104 S. Ct. 2501, 2509 (1984); State v. Rodewald, 376 N.W.2d 416, 422 (Minn. 1985).

            Appellant, a passenger in a car lawfully stopped for equipment violations, attracted the attention of police by his nervous demeanor.  Noticing that neither the driver nor appellant was wearing a seatbelt, the officer initially intended to ticket them for this violation.  Before he did so, he questioned appellant for a period of time about a duffel bag that appellant appeared to be attempting to hide.  Appellant dumped the contents of the bag onto the floor of the car and the officer ordered him out of the car, at which time the officer noticed an alligator-type electrical clip, commonly referred to as a “roach” clip.  Searching further, the officer discovered a bag of marijuana.  He frisked appellant for weapons, discovering more drugs in his possession and by the roadside.  Placing appellant under arrest, the officer ran a record check and discovered outstanding warrants for both the driver and appellant.  This led to a further inventory search of the car, during which more drug paraphernalia was discovered.

            An officer may order a passenger out of a legally stopped vehicle pending completion of the stop.  Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 414-5, 117 S. Ct. 882, 886 (1997).  The Wilson court concluded that the interest of officer safety justified the minor additional intrusion into the liberty interest of the passenger.  Id.  Here, while the officer did testify to some concern regarding his safety, his actions, in permitting the driver to sit in the squad car without being frisked and in failing to secure or frisk appellant prior to searching the car, suggest that safety was not uppermost in his mind. 

            Even if the search of the car and appellant cannot be justified under the standards of Wilson, however, they can be justified under the inevitable discovery rule.  Here, the officer intended to ticket appellant for the seatbelt violation.  Standard police procedure of a record check, in conjunction with issuance of a ticket, would have revealed the warrant.  A warrant arrest and subsequent search of appellant and the driver, incident to arrest, and an inventory search of the car, would have inevitably led to the discovery of the controlled substance evidence.