This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Santrel Montieth Smith,
Filed May 28, 2002
Washington County District Court
File No. K2994656
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Ave., St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Jennifer S. Bovitz, Assistant County Attorney, 14949 – 62nd Street N., Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent)
A. Demetrius Clemons, Attorney at Law, 425 South Third Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and G. Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from his conviction of felon in possession of a firearm, Santrel Smith challenges the constitutionality of a search incident to his arrest that resulted in the seizure of a handgun, the admissibility of a computer printout of his arrest warrant, and the propriety of executing the warrant at night. Because the search comported with constitutional requirements, the printout was admissible under an exception to the best-evidence rule, and the warrant was nightcapped consistent with statutory authority, we affirm.
F A C T S
A Woodbury police officer, in the course of his normal patrol duties of checking hotel registers and monitoring hotels for criminal activity, saw Santrel Smith’s name listed as a hotel registrant. The officer recognized Smith’s name as someone he had previously arrested in a hotel room with narcotics and a weapon. A record check on Smith produced five active warrants, including one nightcapped warrant from Ramsey County. The officer called Woodbury dispatch, and the dispatcher confirmed with Ramsey County that the warrant was nightcapped.
The officer, accompanied by back-up officers, entered the hotel room at about 1:45 a.m. to arrest Smith. Smith and a female companion were in one of the room’s two beds. The officers identified themselves, confirmed Smith’s identity, told Smith that they had warrants for his arrest, and placed Smith under arrest. The police handcuffed Smith and his companion and placed Smith near the door to the room. The officers searched the area around the bed and found a stainless- steel, nine-millimeter semi-automatic handgun under the mattress.
A criminal record check revealed that Smith had a 1994 conviction in Illinois for a felony drug violation and that the handgun had been reported stolen in 1997. The state charged Smith with possession of a pistol by a felon, possession of a firearm by a felon, and receiving stolen property.
Smith moved to suppress the handgun found in the hotel room, arguing that the search was unconstitutional because the handgun was not within the area in his immediate control at the time the police found it. At the suppression hearing, the state introduced, over Smith’s objection, a computer printout listing a nightcapped warrant for Smith’s arrest for charges of driving after revocation and without proof of insurance. The district court found that the search was constitutionally permissible as incident to Smith’s arrest and denied the motion to suppress.
Under the procedures set out in State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980), Smith waived his right to a jury trial and submitted the case to the court on stipulated facts. The district court found Smith guilty of all three charges. Smith appeals, challenging (1) the denial of his motion to suppress, (2) the introduction of the printout of the nightcapped warrant, and (3) the nightcapping of the arrest warrant issued for his misdemeanor violations.
When the underlying facts are not in dispute, we review independently the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress to determine whether, as a matter of law, the evidence should have been suppressed. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992). Smith argues that the handgun found during the search of the hotel room should have been suppressed because the police impermissibly searched an area outside his immediate control.
A hotel-room guest is entitled to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 490, 84 S. Ct. 889, 893 (1964); State v. Hatton, 389 N.W.2d 229, 232 (Minn. App. 1986) review denied (Minn. Aug. 13, 1986). Generally, a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable and the fruits of the unreasonable search must be suppressed, unless the search was conducted incident to a lawful arrest, because of exigent circumstances, or with consent. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 357-58, 88 S. Ct. 507, 514-15 (1967); Hatton, 389 N.W.2d at 232. To constitute a lawful search incident to arrest, police must confine their search to “the arrestee’s person and the area ‘within his immediate control’—construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.” Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 763, 89 S. Ct. 2034, 2040 (1969).
When applying Chimel’s immediate-control test, courts have looked to the arrestee’s distance from the area where the contraband was recovered, whether the arrestee was handcuffed or restrained, the ease of access to the area itself, and the nature and size of the evidence seized. State v. Cox, 294 Minn. 252, 257, 200 N.W.2d 305, 308 (1972) (listing nature and size of evidence seized and whether arrestee was handcuffed as factors); State v. Fisher, 588 N.W.2d 515, 517 (Minn. App. 1999) (citing 3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search & Seizure, § 6.3(c), at 306-07 (3d. ed. 1996) for list of remaining factors) review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 1999).
The facts, which are undisputed in this appeal, are nearly identical to the facts in Cox on which the supreme court upheld the constitutionality of a search incident to an arrest. See Cox, 294 Minn. at 257-58, 200 N.W.2d at 308-09. Upon arriving at Cox’s apartment to execute a warrant for Cox’s arrest, officers found Cox seated on a bed in the bedroom. Id. The officers arrested Cox, confined him to a chair in the bedroom, and conducted a search of the bedroom. Id. One officer found a revolver under the cushion of a couch in the bedroom. Id. At the time of the search, Cox was seated approximately three feet from the couch where the revolver was found; at the time the police entered the room and before Cox had been handcuffed, Cox was five to eight feet from the couch. Id. The court held that the fact that Cox was handcuffed during the search did not negate the validity of a search limited to the bedroom. Cox, 294 Minn. at 258, 200 N.W.2d at 309. Cox provides controlling authority for the district court’s denial of the suppression motion.
In addition to the parallel facts of Cox, the officer’s past arrest of Smith with a gun in a hotel room provided reason to believe that Smith might again be armed and thus pose a threat to the officers’ safety. See Young v. United States, 670 A.2d 903, 907 (D.C. 1996) (noting as a factor in determining reasonableness of search that officers had reason to believe that guns were nearby). At the time that the officers searched the bed, Smith, although on the other side of the room, was still in the hotel room, as was his companion, although the record does not establish her exact location within the room. Compare United States v. Lucas, 898 F.2d 606, 610 (8th Cir. 1990) (pointing out that two of arrestee’s companions remained in room where pistol had been discovered) with Fischer, 588 N.W.2d at 515, 518 (noting that arrestee, who was only occupant of apartment, had been removed from apartment and placed in hallway). The reasonableness of the search is also supported by the fact that the officers limited their search of the hotel room to the bed where Smith and his companion had been when the officers entered the room. See Young, 607 A.2d at 909 (noting that there was no “general rummaging through drawers or closets or anything that one would characterize as searching the apartment”) (quotation omitted). The district court properly denied Smith’s motion to suppress.
Finally, Smith argues that the arrest warrant was improperly nightcapped because the offenses supporting the warrant, driving after revocation and failure to provide proof of insurance, were misdemeanors. Minn. Stat. § 629.31 states:
An arrest for a misdemeanor may not be made on Sunday or between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. on any other day except: (1) when the judge orders in the warrant that the arrest may be made between those hours; or (2) when the person named in the warrant is found on a public highway or street.
Minn. Stat. § 629.31 (1998).
Smith argues that the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure require exigent circumstances to nightcap a warrant when the charged offense is a misdemeanor. We agree that Minn. R. Crim. P. 3.03, subd. 3, states that a person “shall not be arrested” on a misdemeanor warrant during the late evening and early morning hours “except by direction of the issuing officer, endorsed on the warrant when exigent circumstances exist.” Although the legislature has acceded to the primacy of court rules governing pleadings, practice, and procedure in criminal actions, it has specifically provided that, notwithstanding court rules, the arrest procedures found in sections 629.01 to 629.404 remain in full force and effect. Minn. Stat. § 480.059, subd. 7f (Supp. 2000). Thus, according to statutory authority, Minn. Stat. § 629.31 takes precedence over Minn. R. Crim. P. 3.03, and no exigent circumstances are required for nightcapping a misdemeanor arrest warrant. Under the authority of the statute, a judge, in the exercise of discretion, may order a misdemeanor warrant nightcapped.
Smith has not raised, either in the district court or on appeal, a separation-of-powers argument contesting the constitutional validity of Minn. Stat. § 629.31. On this record, the district court did not err in concluding that the warrant permitted a nighttime arrest.