This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Darius Tardell McKinney,
Reversed and remanded
Wright County District Court
File No. KX001322
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Thomas N. Kelly, Wright County Attorney, Kathleen A. Mottl, Assistant County Attorney, Wright County Government Center, 10 Second Street Northwest, Buffalo, MN 55313 (for appellant)
Douglas V. Hazelton, The Interchange Tower, Suite 817, 600 South Highway 169, Minneapolis, MN 55426 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s grant of respondent’s motion to suppress cocaine obtained through a search and seizure of respondent’s personal belongings in a motel room. Because the search and seizure were lawful, we reverse and remand.
Drug Task Force sergeant Todd Hoffman was checking motels for suspicious activity when he arrived at the Days Inn Motel. He learned from the motel clerk that on May 27, 2000, Edward Baker rented Room 205 but signed the registration as Darius McKinney. On May 28, Darius McKinney rented Room 250 and signed his own name. Both men were from Texas, and the clerk said that there had been a lot of traffic in and out of both rooms.
When Hoffman did a records search, he found that there was an outstanding arrest warrant for Darius McKinney for a drug crime. The clerk told Hoffman that both men were in Room 250. Hoffman called for a second officer to assist him, and when the officer arrived he and Hoffman went to Room 250 and knocked on the door.
McKinney answered the door and when he identified himself, Hoffman arrested him. McKinney did not have shoes or a shirt on, and Hoffman told him to get dressed. As he followed McKinney into the room, Hoffman saw Edward Baker lying on a sofa in the living room.
Hoffman escorted McKinney out of the motel room and asked him what he wanted done with his personal belongings. McKinney said that he wanted Baker to take them. The second officer then transported McKinney to jail, and Hoffman remained in the motel room.
Hoffman told Baker that McKinney wanted Baker to take his belongings, but Baker declined to do so and said he was leaving for Texas. Hoffman asked Baker if he had any personal belongings in the motel room, and Baker indicated that a couple of bags next to the bed in the adjoining bedroom were his. Hoffman asked if he could search Baker’s bags, and Baker said he could and walked toward the bedroom. Hoffman followed. In his omnibus-hearing testimony, Hoffman explained the circumstances under which he entered the motel bedroom:
Q So you’re in the back bedroom with Baker, right?
Q Did Baker invite you back there?
A Yes, he pointed * * * the couch area is immediately across from the doorway of the bedroom. When I was speaking with Mr. Baker, I asked him, do you have any belongings in the room. He said, yes, he does. I [asked], where is it? He pointed out to a couple bags that were on the floor between the bed and I believe it’s the wall of the closet. And he [said], those are my belongings. I [asked], do you have anything in your belongings; drugs, guns, contraband? No. Mind if we search it? Go ahead. We walked over there together. I searched those belongings that he depicted were his, and then he was free to leave.
Q So he told you to go into the bedroom?
A He didn’t tell me anything. I followed him into the bedroom.
In the bedroom, Hoffman noticed that there were also two black bags on top of the bed. Sticking out of one of them was a plastic baggie containing a white substance that Hoffman suspected to be cocaine or methamphetamine.
Hoffman allowed Baker to leave and then searched both bags on the bed. Inside the zippered portion of one of the bags was another baggie containing a white substance. During the search, Hoffman found a third baggie with a white substance in it. Hoffman prepared an inventory list of all items in the two bags. The items included clothing, money, and paperwork with Darius McKinney’s name on it.
After the substances in the three baggies tested positive for cocaine, the state charged McKinney with possession of a controlled substance. McKinney moved to suppress the cocaine as the fruit of an illegal search.
The district court granted McKinney’s motion and then dismissed the complaint. Alleging that the court erroneously granted the suppression motion and that the error had a critical impact on the state’s case, the state brings this pretrial appeal.
In a pretrial appeal from an order suppressing evidence in a criminal case, the state must show clearly and unequivocally that the district court erred and that the error will have a critical impact on the state’s ability to prosecute the case successfully. State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998). There is no dispute as to the critical impact of the district court’s order because it resulted in the state’s inability to prosecute the case.
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) (citation omitted).
The district court correctly ruled that the Fourth Amendment proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures extends to people staying in hotel rooms. Stoner v. Cal., 376 U.S. 483, 490, 84 S. Ct. 889, 893 (1964); State v. Thomas, 598 N.W.2d 389, 391 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1999). The court also properly held that a search is considered reasonable only if it is conducted under the authority of a valid search warrant or meets an exception to the warrant requirement. Mincey v. Ariz., 437 U.S. 385, 390, 98 S. Ct. 2408, 2412 (1978). As the district court noted, among the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement are (1) a search incident to a lawful arrest, (2) a search justified by exigent circumstances, and (3) a search to which a lawful possessor of premises or things searched gave consent. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 357-58, 88 S. Ct. 507, 514-15 (1967).
In its thorough analysis of the facts and applicable law, the court determined that none of the exceptions applied. The court noted that the consent exception did not apply because McKinney gave no consent and Baker did not have sufficient mutual use of the room to establish in him a common authority with McKinney to give consent. Furthermore, the court ruled, Hoffman was not lawfully in the bedroom so that he was not entitled to search on the basis of plain sight.
Although we do not dispute the district court’s analysis, we view the facts from a different perspective. No one contends that Baker himself was unlawfully in the motel room or that he was without authority to enter the bedroom where his belongings were located. And no one contends that Baker could not lawfully consent to the search of his own belongings. The evidence is that Baker consented to the search of his bags in the bedroom alongside the bed and that he at least impliedly consented to Hoffman’s entry into the bedroom where those bags were located. “Consent can also be implied by the circumstances, for example, from an individual’s words, gestures, or conduct.” State v. Powell, 357 N.W.2d 146, 149 (Minn. App. 1984) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Jan. 15, 1985).
Although Baker did not consent to a search of McKinney’s bags, once Hoffman acted upon Baker’s consent and lawfully entered the place where Baker’s bags were stored, he saw in plain view the baggie in McKinney’s bag on the bed. Items in plain view may be seized without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the item is contraband or evidence of a crime. State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 631-32 (Minn. 1995) (citing Tex. v. Brown, 460 U.S 730, 742, 103 S. Ct. 1535, 1543 (1983)). The officer knew that McKinney’s arrest warrant was for a drug offense, that there had been a lot of traffic into and out of the room in which Hoffman found the baggie, and that the substance looked like cocaine or methamphetamine. These facts led Hoffman to believe that the substance in the baggie was an illegal drug.
Hoffman conducted the remainder of his search in accordance with police department regulations and criteria for inventory searches. Inventory searches are permissible when the property has been lawfully seized and the inventory search is not a mere pretext to look for evidence of a crime. Colo. v. Bertine, 479 U.S. 367, 107 S. Ct. 738 (1987). Here, Hoffman saw the illegal drugs in plain view and was then entitled to seize the baggie. His ensuing search was not a pretext but rather was an inventory of items that Hoffman had properly decided to seize.
Therefore, we hold that the law-enforcement officer’s search and seizure were proper and that the district court erred by granting the motion to suppress the evidence.
Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.