may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 01106955
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Patrick C. Diamond, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 200, 317 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Doua Vang agreed to be tried by the court on stipulated facts and was convicted of receiving stolen goods in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.53, subd. 1 and 609.52, subd. 3 (3)(a) (2000). On appeal, he argues that the police made an illegal, warrantless entry into his home to arrest him in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and that the statement he gave to police should have been suppressed as the product of an illegal arrest. Because probable cause for his arrest and exigent circumstances existed, we affirm.
A neighbor of a residence at 4319 Snelling Avenue had several contacts with the Minneapolis police department about his observations indicating that several Asian males were involved in a car-stripping operation at that residence. The police conducted surveillance at 4319 Snelling, but did not observe any illegal activity. About 2:00 a.m., on the day of appellant’s arrest, the neighbor saw two Asian men arrive at 4319 Snelling, followed by a gray Acura vehicle being driven with the lights off by a third Asian man, whom the neighbor recognized as a man who lived at that address. Although the record is not entirely clear, it appears that during the neighbor’s first observations, at about 2:00 a.m., he saw the driver of the car go into the house. At about 12:20 p.m., when the neighbor was able to see the license number on the car, he called the police about what he had seen earlier, and gave the license number to the police. Two officers went to the scene. They checked the license number while en route and found that it was for a recently stolen car. These officers went to the garage and arrested two Asian men who were in the process of stripping the car.
Officer Willis, who had been part of the earlier surveillance of this address, heard the dispatch and drove to the scene with his partner. Officer Willis went to the side door of the house and his partner went to the back of the house. Officer Willis could hear the arrests being made in the garage. He stood close to the side door with his gun drawn. Appellant opened the door, began to step out, saw the officer, looked surprised, and attempted to retreat into the house. Officer Willis got his foot in the door and went into the house. Several people were near or in the kitchen. Officer Willis secured the scene and another officer came in and arrested appellant. Appellant was taken to the jail where he gave a tape-recorded statement after receiving a Miranda warning. Appellant moved to suppress this statement. The motion was denied. Appellant agreed to a trial by the court based on stipulated facts and was found guilty. Appellant now challenges the denial of 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). This court accepts the district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. State v. George, 557 N.W.2d 575, 578 (Minn. 1997).
To justify a warrantless entry into a person’s home to make a felony arrest, the state must show either (1) consent, or (2) probable cause and exigent circumstances. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 222 (Minn. 1992). If a warrantless entry is made without consent or probable cause and exigent circumstances, the fruit of the illegal entry must be suppressed. Id.
In order to establish probable cause, the police must show that they “reasonably could have believed that a crime has been committed by the person to be arrested.”
State v. Paul, 548 N.W.2d 260, 264 (Minn. 1996) (citations omitted). “The probable-cause standard is an objective one that considers the totality of the circumstances.” State v. Olson, 634 N.W.2d 224, 228 (Minn. App. 2001) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 11, 2001).
When more than one officer is involved in an investigation, Minnesota uses the “collaborative knowledge” approach to determine whether probable cause existed. Under this approach, the entire knowledge of the police force is pooled and imputed to the arresting officer for the purpose of determining if sufficient probable cause exist[ed] for an arrest.
State v. Riley, 568 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Minn. 1997) (citations omitted). When determining whether probable cause exists to support a warrantless arrest, an appellate court “independently reviews the facts to determine the reasonableness of the conduct of police.” Id. (citation omitted).
We agree with the district court’s conclusion that there is probable cause in this case to believe that a felony was being committed in the garage. The officers knew that three men were connected with the stolen Acura, only two were found in the garage with the car, one had been seen entering the house, and the man who started to come out of the side door looked surprised and immediately attempted to retreat. Despite the time that had evidently elapsed between the neighbor’s having seen the driver go into the house and appellant’s arrest, Officer Willis could have reasonably believed that the startled man who started to come out of the side door was involved with the criminal activity underway in the garage.
Probable cause, however, without exigent circumstances, would not support Officer Willis’s entry into appellant’s home for the arrest. But exigent circumstances can exist where police are in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect. State v. Koziol, 338 N.W.2d 47, 48 (Minn. 1983) (citing United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 43, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 2410 (1976)). “[A] suspect may not defeat an arrest which has been set in motion in a public place by the expedient of retreating to a private place.” Paul, 548 N.W.2d at 264 (citing Santana, 427 U.S. at 43, 96 S. Ct. at 2410).
[T]he ‘hot pursuit’ doctrine applies regardless of whether officers conduct a high speed chase of the suspect or merely approach a suspect who immediately retreats into a house.
State v. Baumann, 616 N.W.2d 771, 775 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Nov. 15, 2000). This court evaluates the facts found by the district court to determine, as a matter of law, whether exigent circumstances existed. State v. Gray, 456 N.W.2d 251, 256 (Minn. 1990). The district court found that appellant “stepped out into a public place.” This finding is factually supported by the testimony of Officer Willis, who stated that appellant crossed the threshold of the house. The finding is legally supported by Santana, 427 U.S. at 42-43, 96 S. Ct. at 2409-10. When police saw Santana, who was suspected of selling heroin, she was standing in the doorway of her house, “one step forward would have put her outside, one step backward would have put her in the vestibule of her residence.” Id. at 40, 96 S. Ct. at 2408 n. 1.
While it may be true that under the common law of property the threshold of one’s dwelling is “private,” as is the yard surrounding the house, it is nonetheless clear that under the cases interpreting the Fourth Amendment Santanta was in a “public” place. She was not in an area where she had any expectation of privacy. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own house or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. She was not merely visible to the public but was as exposed to public view, speech, hearing, and touch as if she had been standing completely outside her house.
Id. at 42-43, 96 S. Ct. at 2409 (quotation and citation omitted). The district court did not err by concluding that, under existing case law, exigent circumstances existed which, coupled with probable cause, permitted Officer Willis to pursue appellant into his home without violating the Fourth Amendment.