This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Douglas Alan Elkins,
Filed April 8, 2003
St. Louis County District Court
File No. KX02102459
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Timothy C. Rank, Assistant Attorney General, Jessica Bulk, Certified Student Attorney, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Alan Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, Brian Simonson, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney, 1810 E. 12th Avenue, Hibbing, MN 55746 (for respondent)
Samuel A. McCloud, Carson J. Heefner, McCloud & Boedigheimer, P.A., Suite 1000, Circle K, Box 216, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant Douglas Elkins was convicted of first-degree controlled substance crime after a trial on stipulated facts and sentenced to 86 months in prison. He challenges the district court’s finding that there was probable cause to support the warrant permitting a search of his home. Because, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the issuing judge had a sufficient basis to issue a warrant, we affirm.
The United States and Minnesota Constitutions provide that warrants must be supported by probable cause. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. When reviewing the issuance of a search warrant, we give great deference to the issuing judge’s determination of probable cause. State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 268 (Minn. 1985). The district court must have a substantial basis to conclude that probable cause exists in order to issue a search warrant. State v. Harris, 589 N.W.2d 782, 788 (Minn. 1999). “Substantial basis” in this context means a “fair probability,” given the totality of the circumstances, “that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 633 (Minn. 1995) (quotation omitted).
In determining whether probable cause existed, the issuing judge and the reviewing court may consider only the information presented in the affidavit offered in support of the search-warrant application. State v. Kahn, 555 N.W.2d 15, 18 (Minn. App. 1996). Probable cause exists if a supporting “affidavit sets forth competent evidence sufficient to lead a reasonably prudent person to believe there is a basis for the search.” State v. Richardson, 514 N.W.2d 573, 579 (Minn. App. 1994).
The substantial basis for the search warrant here was provided by Drew Lashmett, an acquaintance of Elkins, who, after his own arrest for manufacturing methamphetamines, provided police with information about Elkins’ activities. Thus, the basis for the search warrant issued for Elkins’ home depends on the credibility of Lashmett. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the district court did not err in finding Lashmett credible and in granting the search warrant.
First, Lashmett gave the information in a face-to-face interview. An informant whose identity is known “is more likely to be telling the truth” because the informant presumably “knows that the police could arrest her for making false report.” State v. Lindquist, 295 Minn. 398, 400, 205 N.W.2d 333, 335 (1973). Lashmett, who was in police custody, had some incentive to provide police with truthful information, which increases the likelihood that his statements were reliable.
Second, the police verified several pieces of information that Lashmett provided about appellant. When Lashmett led police to appellant’s residence, the officers verified that Elkins and his wife resided at the identified property address by checking the contents of the mailbox and motor vehicle records, and by contacting the county assessor. The police also corroborated Lashmett’s claim that Elkins had a felony record in Indiana. This type of non-incriminating, yet corroborating, information enhances an informant’s credibility. See Wiley 366 N.W.2d at 269 (noting that while verification of the defendant’s address and type of vehicle parked in front of residence did not constitute “corroboration of a key detail, the corroboration did lend credence to the informant’s tip.”); see also State v. McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d 700, 704 (Minn. 1990)(stating “minimal corroboration is at least another relevant factor on which the magistrate was entitled to rely in making the totality-of-circumstances assessment.”); State v. Siegfried, 274 N.W.2d 113, 115 (Minn. 1978) (stating “the fact that police can corroborate part of the informer’s tip as truthful may suggest that the entire tip is reliable.”).
Third, Lashmett made several statements against his own penal interest, acknowledging his involvement in the manufacture of methamphetamine on several occasions, his theft of a tank of anhydrous ammonia, and his participation in a drug transaction with Elkins. Lashmett could have chosen to be silent about his actions, but instead chose to incriminate himself.
The rationale for the credit given to statements against interest is that people do not lightly admit a crime and place critical evidence in the hands of the police in the form of their own admission.
State v. Ward, 580 N.W.2d 67, 72 (Minn. App. 1998) (quotation omitted). The “fact that the statement was in some way against the informant’s interest is of some minimal relevance in a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis of probable cause.” McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d at 704.
Finally, Lashmett provided considerable detail showing his direct knowledge of Elkins’ involvement with controlled substances, as well as manufacturing methamphetamine in general. Specifically, the search warrant affidavit stated that (1) Lashmett saw six 100-pound tanks of anhydrous ammonia on Elkins’ property and a 20-pound propane tank that he identified as anhydrous ammonia; (2) Lashmett observed Elkins manufacturing methamphetamine; (3) Lashmett saw approximately 30 marijuana plants roughly two feet tall in Elkins’ bedroom two to four weeks before his arrest; (4) Elkins brought a “slurry” of precursor chemicals of methamphetamine to Lashmett’s house for the final stages of “cooking”; (5) Lashmett met Elkins on Highway 135 just south of Babbitt within two to four weeks before his arrest and delivered methamphetamine; and (6) Elkins has a criminal felony record in Indiana.
The information obtained from the CRI must still show a basis of knowledge. This basis of knowledge may be supplied directly, by first-hand information, such as when a CRI states that he purchased drugs from a suspect or saw a suspect selling drugs to another; a basis of knowledge may also be supplied indirectly through self-verifying details that allow an inference that the information was gained in a reliable way and is not merely based on a suspect’s general reputation or on a casual rumor circulating in the criminal underworld. Assessment of the CRI’s basis of knowledge involves consideration of the quantity and quality of detail in the CRI’s report and whether police independently verified important details of the informant’s report.
State v. Cook, 610 N.W.2d 664, 668 (Minn. App. 2000) (citations omitted). Based on the totality of information supplied in the affidavit accompanying the petition for the search warrant, we conclude that the issuing judge had a sufficient basis to issue the search warrant. Thus, the district court did not err in refusing to suppress the evidence seized in the execution of the warrant.