This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00104140
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota Public Defender, Steven P. Russett, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 600, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant Reginald Jermaine Domineck challenges an order of the district court denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from his car. Because we conclude that the police discovered the evidence during a valid search incident to arrest, we affirm.
Officer Kelly O’Rourke stopped Domineck’s car because the car had no front license plate and Domineck had turned without signaling. Officer O’Rourke approached the vehicle to ask Domineck for his driver’s license and proof of insurance. Officer O’Rourke detected the odor of marijuana as soon as Domineck rolled down his window. Domineck immediately handed the officer his insurance card, but said that he could not find his driver’s license and told the officer that he must have left it at home. While Domineck was looking through some papers in search of his driver’s license, Officer O’Rourke noticed two bags of what he suspected was marijuana on the center console. Officer O’Rourke arrested Domineck for possession of marijuana.
After placing Domineck in the squad car, Officer O’Rourke ran the passenger’s name on his computer and determined that a warrant had been issued for her arrest. Officer O’Rourke also arrested the passenger.
Officer O’Rourke performed an inventory search and found a loaded revolver inside a plastic container in the rear of the vehicle. Officer O’Rourke placed the gun and the marijuana into inventory bags and put them in the property inventory room at the police station. Domineck’s car was towed to the impound lot.
Domineck was charged with violating Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2000) for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Domineck moved to suppress evidence of the gun alleging that the search of his vehicle was illegal. The district court denied Domineck’s motion to suppress and found Domineck guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Domineck appeals from his conviction, challenging the pretrial ruling on his motion to suppress.
When reviewing pretrial suppression rulings, this court “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).
Domineck argues that the search of his car was invalid because it was based on an illegal arrest. He claims that Officer O’Rourke did not have grounds to arrest him because the amount of marijuana found in the car was, at most, a misdemeanor-level amount. When Officer O’Rourke arrested Domineck he did not know whether Domineck possessed a felony-level amount or a misdemeanor-level amount of marijuana. In State v. Hanson, we held that a custodial arrest was proper when police observed a “small amount” of marijuana because the amount could not be reasonably ascertained prior to the arrest. 488 N.W.2d 511, 512 (Minn. App. 1992). Here, Officer O’Rourke observed two baggies of suspected marijuana in Domineck’s car, but was unable to ascertain whether Domineck possessed a misdemeanor or felony-level amount. Under these circumstances, the officer had probable cause to arrest Domineck for possession of an unascertained amount of marijuana. Because Officer O’Rourke had legal grounds to arrest Domineck, the subsequent search of his vehicle was a valid search incident to arrest. See State v. Ture, 632 N.W.2d 621, 628 (Minn. 2001) (noting that “once a vehicle’s occupant is lawfully arrested the police may search the vehicle’s passenger compartment”). Furthermore, “discovery of some marijuana in a car gives probable cause to search for more.” State v. Schinzing, 342 N.W.2d 105, 110 (Minn. 1983) (citations omitted). The fact that the search, based on probable cause to believe that there might be additional marijuana, led instead to discovery of an illegal weapon does not render the search invalid. United States v. Parham, 458 F.2d 438, 439 (8th Cir. 1972).
Domineck bases his challenge to the district court’s conclusion that the search was an appropriate inventory search on his claim that he had not committed any offense for which he could be arrested. We have found that argument to be without merit.
Domineck further argues that the state failed to prove that the car was properly impounded or that the inventory search was conducted in accordance with established policy. Under the facts of this case, however, impoundment of Domineck’s car was reasonable because the police arrested the driver and the passenger. See City of St. Paul v. Myles, 298 Minn. 298, 299-300, 218 N.W.2d 697, 698-99 (1974) (holding that impoundment was “a reasonable measure to protect the car and its contents” after the police arrested the driver and the two passengers). Officer O’Rourke also testified that he impounded the car in compliance with department policy. The officer testified that the car was towed to the impound lot and that the gun and marijuana were placed in inventory bags and delivered to the police department’s property inventory room. There is no evidence to contradict the officer’s testimony that the impoundment and search were conducted in compliance with department policy. See Myles, 298 Minn. at 304, 218 N.W.2d at 701 (“The police will generally be able to justify an inventory when it becomes essential for them to take custody of and responsibility for a vehicle due to the incapacity or absence of the owner, driver, or any responsible passenger.”)
In his pro se supplemental brief, Domineck raises additional challenges to the legality of the stop. We find these arguments without merit since the officer clearly had reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop.
Because the police discovered and seized the gun during a legal search incident to arrest, we affirm the district court’s order denying Domineck’s motion to suppress evidence.