This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Steven Allen Srnsky,
Polk County District Court
File No. K999845
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Wayne H. Swanson, Polk County Attorney, 223 East 7th Street, Suite 101, Crookston, MN 56716-1498 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Lindberg, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Steven Allen Srnsky challenges his convictions of possession of stolen property. He contends that the district court erred in not suppressing evidence obtained by the police during a warrantless search of the curtilage of his home. We affirm.
In reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, this court “may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred” in not suppressing the evidence.” State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999) (citation omitted).
“The Fourth Amendment protects the home and its curtilage from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Tracht v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 592 N.W.2d 863, 865 (Minn. App. 1999) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999). Minnesota courts have defined the curtilage as the “area adjacent to a house.” State v. Crea, 305 Minn. 342, 345-46, 233 N.W.2d 736, 739 (1975).
But while the Fourth Amendment protects the curtilage of a home from unreasonable searches and seizures,
police with legitimate business may enter the areas of the curtilage which are impliedly open to use by the public. Thus, police may walk on the sidewalk and onto the porch of a house and knock on the door if they are conducting an investigation and want to question the owner, and in such a situation the police are free to keep their eyes open and use their other senses.
Id. at 346, 233 N.W.2d at 739 (citation omitted).
Appellant contends that although the deputies were authorized to be on his driveway and porch without a warrant, one of the deputies improperly walked around to the side of his home. We disagree. In determining whether the police acting without a warrant have violated the Fourth Amendment, this court must determine whether the police acted reasonably. Id. at 346, 233 N.W.2d at 740. Appellant incorrectly asserts that under Crea there are only three factors a court may consider in determining the reasonableness of an officer’s actions: (1) whether the police had probable cause to believe evidence of criminal activity would be found; (2) the intrusiveness of the search; and (3) depending upon the time of day, the likelihood of obtaining a search warrant. Id. at 346-47, 233 N.W.2d at 740. Although the Crea court listed these three factors in its reasonableness determination, it did not indicate that the factors were exhaustive.
Here, the deputy stated that he walked around the house to look into a side window for safety purposes. We conclude that officer safety is an appropriate factor for this court to consider in our determination of whether the deputy acted reasonably. And because officer safety is a valid concern and the visual intrusion upon appellant’s privacy was only minimal, we conclude the police acted reasonably. Id.
Moreover, because it was reasonable for the officer to walk around the side of the house, he did not violate appellant’s constitutional rights when he observed a snowmobile in plain view in the yard from his location near the window. See Tracht, 592 N.W.2d at 865 (“What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home * * *, is not subject to Fourth Amendment protection.” (citation omitted)). And under Crea, “[h]aving viewed the [snowmobile] in plain sight” and noticing that it appeared to be “chopped,” the police had a “right to examine” the vehicle. Crea, 305 Minn. at 346, 233 N.W.2d at 740.
Appellant also argues that the search warrants authorizing the police to investigate his house were improperly issued because they were based on information improperly obtained from the deputies’ search of the snowmobile located near the side window, and two snowmobiles enclosed by a fence. But we need not reach the issue of whether the search warrant was based in part on improperly discovered information. As discussed above, the police properly obtained a serial number from the snowmobile located near appellant’s side window and learned that the snowmobile had been reported stolen. Thus, this information alone was sufficient to establish probable cause for a search warrant. We conclude that because the police demonstrated sufficient evidence for a search warrant, the district court did not err in denying appellant’s motion to suppress evidence.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.