This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Filed December 18, 2001
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, John W. Fristik, Assistant County Attorney, 14949 62nd Street North, Post Office Box 6, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Julio Cesar Garcia appeals from an order denying his postconviction petition challenging his convictions of aiding and abetting first-degree controlled substance crime and aiding and abetting importing controlled substance across state borders. Garcia argues that he did not adequately waive the rights to a court trial based on stipulated facts, his own testimony, and the omnibus hearing transcripts. Garcia also argues that the district court erroneously denied his suppression motion, contending that consent to search was not validly obtained from the vehicle's owner. Finally, Garcia argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove he knowingly possessed the cocaine found in the vehicle. We affirm.
On April 22, 1997, at approximately 2:00 p.m., the Washington County Sheriff's Department received a call of an "unknown disturbance" at 73 Cimarron in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, involving a white van with two occupants, one male and one female. Deputies Wayne Johnson and Michael Gibbs responded to the call. Johnson arrived first on the scene and observed a male in the driver's seat and a female in the passenger's seat of a white 1990 Oldsmobile van with a Texas temporary license plate parked in the driveway of 73 Cimarron. The male driver was identified as Garcia, and the female passenger was identified as Adela Ramirez. Ramirez produced a recent bill of sale for the van that named her as the purchaser.
Johnson approached the residence at 73 Cimarron and was initially told by the occupants M.G. and her son, H.G., that there was not a problem and that everything was fine. M.G. later stated that "the woman in the van, she has many many drugs." M.G. also told Johnson that there had been structural modifications made to the van and that the drugs were concealed in the molding and in false compartments. She stated that she had seen the drugs and knew that drugs were there. Gibbs arrived on the scene. The Washington County narcotic unit canine was unavailable and the estimated time of arrival for a Ramsey County canine was 30 to 45 minutes.
Johnson and Gibbs then separated the two occupants of the van. Garcia was placed in Johnson's squad car, and Ramirez was placed in Gibbs's squad car; neither was handcuffed. The officers testified that at this point Garcia and Ramirez were not free to leave. Johnson stated that they "were being detained" because the scene was "still under investigation."
The officers attempted to gain consent from Ramirez to search her van. Fourteen-year-old H.G. translated the consent to search advisory form from English to Spanish. H.G. translated the form to Ramirez at least three times. Ramirez signed the form, giving her consent to search her van, and was placed back in the squad car.
Johnson and Gibbs conducted a search of the van. In the back seat of the van Gibbs located a box with a picture of a spotlight on it. Gibbs picked up the box and found it to be much heavier than what a spotlight would be. He opened the box and found two large, round items wrapped in duct tape; each was approximately six inches long and ten inches in diameter. The packages had a powdery laundry detergent substance on the outside. In Gibbs's experience, this is done to throw off narcotic sniffing dogs.
Gibbs suspected that the packages might contain controlled substances, based on his past narcotics experience. Gibbs had been employed with the Washington County Sheriff's Department for 17 years and had been a member of the Washington County Narcotics Squad for six years. Gibbs cut into one of the packages and found that it contained a white, powdery substance that he believed to be cocaine or methamphetamine. It was later determined to be cocaine. A bag of men's clothing was found in the cargo space of the van.
Gibbs testified that while he was transporting Garcia, Garcia asked why he was being taken to jail. Gibbs explained that drugs had been found in the van. Garcia then asked if the drugs had been found in the box in the backseat, to which Gibbs replied affirmatively. Deputy Roland Martinez, who is bilingual, read Garcia his Miranda rights in Spanish when he arrived at the jail. Garcia waived his rights and agreed to talk. Garcia explained that he had come to Minnesota with Ramirez to find work. Garcia told Martinez that when they stopped at a roadside rest area in Albert Lea, he found the box, and, thinking that it held the utility lantern pictured on the outside of the box, he picked up the box and put it in the van.
Garcia was charged with aiding and abetting first-degree controlled substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2(1) (1996), and aiding and abetting importing a controlled substance across state borders in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.0261, subd. 1 (1996). The district court denied Garcia's suppression motion. Garcia waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded to a court trial held on stipulated facts, his own testimony, and the omnibus hearing transcripts.
Garcia testified that Ramirez is the ex-wife of his brother and that for about eight years, he "hardly had any contact with her," but that he and Ramirez drove together for two to four days before they were arrested in the Cimarron Trailer Park. Garcia testified that Ramirez drove the van initially, but they took turns driving. Garcia admitted that he lied to Martinez about picking the box up at a rest area.
The district court found Garcia guilty of both charges. Before Garcia was sentenced, he absconded. Garcia was later returned to court on January 21, 2000. He was sentenced to an executed term of imprisonment of 81 months and a fine of $100. Garcia appealed. His subsequent motion to dismiss the appeal in order to initiate postconviction proceedings was granted. The postconviction court denied Garcia's postconviction petition, and this appeal followed.
1. Garcia argues that the postconviction court erred in denying his postconviction petition, contending that he did not adequately waive the rights necessary to proceed to a court trial on stipulated facts.
We review a postconviction court's findings to determine whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record. We afford great deference to a district court's findings of fact and will not reverse the findings unless they are clearly erroneous. The decisions of a postconviction court will not be disturbed unless the court abused its discretion.
Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001) (citations omitted).
The record reflects that Garcia's trial counsel extensively questioned him on the record regarding the rights that he was waiving. The record also indicates that Garcia's trial counsel had previously spoken with him about a stipulated facts trial and that he understood what was happening. Garcia personally waived on the record his right to a jury trial and its attendant rights on the record. The postconviction court's findings are supported by sufficient evidence in the record. Accordingly, we conclude that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in denying Garcia's postconviction petition.
2. Garcia argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of the van.
When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing -- or not suppressing -- the evidence.
State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999) (citing State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
The state contends that Garcia had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the van and therefore lacks standing to challenge the search. Garcia contends that the issue of standing is not properly before us because the state did not cross appeal the district court's order finding standing. But the state had no right to appeal at any stage of the proceedings in this case. This appeal was taken from the denial of postconviction relief, governed by Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.02. The state has no right to file a notice of review in such an appeal. The state could not file a pretrial appeal to challenge the finding of standing, because the district court's order denying Garcia's suppression motion was in the state's favor, and the state would not have been able to show critical impact. See State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998) (if state appeals pretrial suppression orders in felony cases, it "must 'clearly and unequivocally' show both that the trial court's order will have a 'critical impact' on the state's ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and that the order constituted error" (citation omitted)).
Furthermore, the state is not seeking relief from judgment, but merely arguing lack of standing as an alternative basis for affirming the district court's denial of Garcia's suppression motion. We conclude that the issue of standing is properly before us.
A defendant who seeks the suppression of evidence may not assert the violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of a third party but must allege some violation of his own rights. In order to have Fourth Amendment "standing," therefore, a defendant must show the search or seizure infringed upon the defendant's own legitimate expectation of privacy.
State v. Reynolds, 578 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Minn. App. 1998) (citations omitted).
[I]t is the burden of the party seeking suppression to show his fourth amendment rights were violated, that he had a personal and legitimate expectation of privacy and that the search was illegal.
State v. Robinson, 458 N.W.2d 421, 423 (Minn. App. 1990) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Sept. 14, 1990). "A subjective expectation of privacy is legitimate if it is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable." Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 95-96, 110 S. Ct. 1684, 1687 (1990) (quotations omitted).
Garcia points out that he spent time in the van not only as a passenger, but also as a driver. Garcia also points out that the van was not only used for transportation, but also because he slept in the van and had a bag of his clothing in the van, it was used as living quarters. Garcia argues that under these circumstances he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle "much in the same way an overnight guest in a home would." It is well established, however, that "the characteristics of a vehicle result in a lower expectation of privacy in a vehicle." State v. Bauman, 586 N.W.2d 416, 422 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Jan. 27, 1999). Under these facts, we conclude that Garcia failed to satisfy his burden of proving that he had a legitimate privacy interest in the van.
3. In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court's review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the factfinder to reach the resulting verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court must assume the factfinder believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the factfinder, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988). "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in criminal cases, the same standard of review will apply to cases heard with or without a jury." State v. Hughes, 355 N.W.2d 500, 502 (Minn. App. 1984) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Jan. 2, 1985).
Minn. Stat. § 152.028, subd. 2 (1996), provides in relevant part:
The presence of a controlled substance in a passenger automobile permits the factfinder to infer knowing possession of the controlled substance by the driver or person in control of the automobile when the controlled substance was in the automobile.
Garcia argues that the evidence does not support the district court's findings of guilt. Based on the undisputed fact that Garcia was in the driver's seat when the officers arrived on the scene, on the permissive and rational inference that Garcia knew of the controlled substance in the van, and on the testimony that Garcia asked Gibbs if the drugs had been found in the box in the backseat, the district court concluded that Garcia knew the box contained drugs. We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to allow the district court to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Garcia was guilty of the charged offenses.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.