This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Steven William Clark,
Wright County District Court
File No. K8-01-728
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, Minnesota 55103; and
Thomas N. Kelly, Wright County Attorney, Wright County Government Center, Ten Second Street Northwest, Buffalo, Minnesota 55313-1189 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Leslie J. Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, Laura Zlotowski, Certified Student Attorney, Suite 425, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
In this appeal from his conviction of second-degree controlled-substance offense, appellant argues that the warrantless entry of his home was improper. Next, he argues that even if the entry was proper, the officers impermissibly expanded the scope of the search. Finally, he argues that he was interrogated by the officers in violation of his Miranda rights. Because we conclude that both the warrantless entry and the scope of the search were proper, and that appellant waived any claim that his Miranda rights were violated, we affirm.
Around 3:30 p.m. on March 3, 2001, Deputy Chad Strand responded to a report of a possible domestic assault. The victim informed police that her boyfriend, appellant, had assaulted her and that she fled from his residence. When officers arrived, she was at a nearby residence dressed only in her underwear and was in need of medical attention. The police called an ambulance, and she was transported to the hospital. When Strand went to appellant’s residence and knocked on the door, he received no answer and left the residence.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., Strand spoke to Dr. Robinson, who informed him that the victim had two broken ribs. Strand also learned that appellant had called police dispatch looking for his girlfriend. Strand called appellant and told him that his girlfriend was at the hospital and might need a ride later. Strand testified that he planned to get appellant out of his home so that Strand could arrest him.
At approximately 7:35 p.m., Strand returned to appellant’s house and asked appellant to come to the door and give a taped statement about the assault. Appellant refused, but did give his name and date of birth. Strand told appellant that he intended to attempt to obtain a warrant. In response, appellant said that if they got a warrant they would “find him laying in the house with his head blown off.” Strand left.
Throughout the evening, appellant called the hospital asking to speak with the victim. Instead, he spoke with her treating physician, Dr. Robinson. After one of these calls, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Dr. Robinson called police dispatch and told them that appellant had threatened to “blow his head off” if he was not allowed to speak with the victim immediately. Appellant also told Dr. Robinson that he “may just hear [the suicidal gunshot] over the phone.” Dr. Robinson “highly advised that [the police] go and check his welfare because of all the phone calls and the suicidal messages.”
After receiving this message from Dr. Robinson, the police assembled a team of officers, some with training in emergency response situations, and met to plan their entry into appellant’s home. This was around 9:45 p.m. Before entering appellant’s home, the officers were also informed that appellant was being “looked at” for drug activity. One of the officers present, Sergeant Lang, testified that prior to entering the home, he heard footsteps coming from an area in the home away from the front door. At approximately 10:15 p.m., the officers surrounded the house, kicked appellant’s door in, knocked him to the floor, handcuffed him, and then made a protective sweep of the home. Appellant was in the front room, near the door, when officers kicked it in. During this protective sweep, an officer discovered hypodermic needles in one of the rooms and asked appellant if he was a diabetic. Appellant said he was not and then told the officer that there were illegal drugs in a nearby desk drawer. In addition, two officers went downstairs into the basement and discovered what appeared to be a methamphetamine laboratory. Later, the police obtained and executed a search warrant. They confirmed that the lab was used to manufacture methamphetamine. Appellant agreed to a court trial on stipulated facts pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980). After trial, appellant was found guilty, and this appeal followed.
The first issue we must decide is whether the officers’ warrantless entry into appellant’s home was constitutional. When the facts are undisputed, we independently review the district court’s decision on the legality of a seizure or search. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
Warrantless searches and seizures are per se unreasonable under both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I; State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221-22 (Minn. 1992) (citing Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S. Ct. 507, 514 (1967)). They are only allowed in a “few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” State v. Hanley, 363 N.W.2d 735, 738 (Minn. 1985) (quoting Katz, 389 U.S. at 357, 88 S. Ct. at 514). Caselaw establishes an exception to the Fourth Amendment in emergency situations. In Mincey v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court stated:
We do not question the right of the police to respond to emergency situations. Numerous state and federal cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment does not bar police officers from making warrantless entries and searches when they reasonably believe that a person within is in need of immediate aid.
Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392, 98 S. Ct. 2408, 2413 (1978) (footnotes omitted). Minnesota has also recognized this exception. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d at 223.
An objective standard is used to determine whether an officer reasonably believed an emergency existed. Id. The focus of the inquiry is whether the facts available to the officers at the moment they entered the home would lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that someone inside the home needed emergency assistance. Id. This is true even when the officers may have other motives for their actions. State v. Battleson, 567 N.W.2d 69, 71 (1997) (citing Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1774 (1996)). In Whren, the United States Supreme Court stated:
[T]he fact that the officer does not have the state of mind which is hypothecated by the reasons which provide the legal justification for the officer's action does not invalidate the action taken as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action.
517 U.S. at 813, 116 S. Ct. at 1774 (quotation omitted).
Appellant contends that to invoke the emergency-aid doctrine, police officers must not be involved in investigating a suspected crime. Therefore, because he was being “looked at” for drug activity, and the police admitted that they wanted to get appellant out of the house to arrest him, appellant contends that the emergency-aid exception is inapplicable. In addition, he attacks the reasonableness of the perceived emergency based solely on Dr. Robinson’s phone call. Lastly, appellant challenges the veracity of the officers’ stated purpose of ensuring his health and welfare, based upon their actions once inside the home. None of these arguments is convincing.
We review the district court’s findings of fact for clear error. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. In its suppression order, the district court found as follows:
At approximately 9:00 p.m., the doctor called Dispatch and stated that [appellant] had called the hospital again, and that the Defendant had threatened that if he could not talk to the victim, he would blow his head off.
At approximately 10:15 p.m., several Wright County Deputies went to [appellant’s] residence to check on his welfare. The Deputies knocked on the door several times, and kicked the door in. The Deputies took the Defendant to the ground, handcuffed him, and seated him in a chair.
These findings are supported by the testimony of Deputy Strand and Sergeant Sandin. Both officers testified that Dr. Robinson believed that appellant’s threats of suicide were becoming more serious. Appellant’s final telephone call at 9:00 p.m. was particularly disturbing because he threatened to blow his head off if Dr. Robinson did not allow him to speak with the victim. Although the officers may also have wanted to substantiate their suspicions about appellant’s alleged drug activity, the officers testified that the purpose of the entry was to check on appellant’s welfare. Moreover, they had an objectively reasonable basis for entering the residence based on appellant’s suicidal threats to Dr. Robinson. Thus, under the emergency-aid doctrine, the warrantless entry was proper.
Appellant next argues that even if the initial entry was proper, the police impermissibly expanded the scope of the search by searching other rooms in the house that were beyond his reach or control. Respondent asserts that this issue is waived because it was not raised below. Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 357 (Minn. 1996) (stating that appellate courts will generally not consider matters not argued and considered by district court). We agree that the issue is waived, but we address it nevertheless because at least one of the district court’s findings of fact implicitly suggests that the court determined that the scope of the search was proper.
The United States Supreme Court’s Buie case is instructive. In Buie, the Court defined a protective sweep as a
quick and limited search of premises, incident to an arrest and conducted to protect the safety of police officers or others. It is narrowly confined to a cursory visual inspection of those places in which a person might be hiding.
Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325, 327, 110 S. Ct. 1093, 1094 (1990). Further, the Court stated that the proper standard to assess the constitutionality of the sweep under the Fourth Amendment was
if the searching officer “possesse[d] a reasonable belief based on ‘specific and articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant[ed]’ the officer in believing,” that the area swept harbored an individual posing a danger to the officer or others.
Id. at 327, 110 S. Ct. at 1095 (quoting Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1050, 103 S. Ct. 3469, 3481 (1983) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968)).
Here, there was sufficient evidence to establish that the officers had a reasonable suspicion that another person who posed a danger to the officers was present in the home. Sergeant Lang testified that immediately before entering the home, he heard the sound of footsteps that “sounded like [they were] coming from an area not close to the front door.” Lang further testified that, once inside, he asked appellant where he was coming from within the house, and appellant replied that he was in the front room the whole time. In addition, the evidence suggests the police reasonably believed that appellant had a firearm because of his earlier threat to “blow his head off.” On this record, the district court did not clearly err in finding that the protective sweep was proper to ensure officer safety.
Appellant’s final argument is that the officers interrogated him concerning the purpose for the hypodermic needles in appellant’s bedroom without first giving him a Miranda warning. This issue was waived because it was not fully argued before the district court. At the omnibus hearing, the district court stated:
[L]et’s proceed on the [warrantless entry issue] and if you are able to address the motion to suppress the statements sufficiently today we can do that, and if you need some more time, come back another day, we can do that also.
Appellant did not raise the Miranda issue again at that hearing, nor at any subsequent proceedings before the district court. The issue did not reappear until appellant filed his brief in this court. This court will generally not consider matters not argued and considered in the court below. Roby, 547 N.W.2d at 357. Even assuming that this issue were properly before us, appellant has failed to show any prejudice because there is no indication in the record that the district court considered this evidence in the Lothenbach proceeding.