This opinion will be unpublished and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,
James Rodney Henkemeyer,
Filed April 13, 2004
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K3-02-319
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark N. Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Barry V. Voss, 527 Marquette Avenue, Suite 2355, Minneapolis, MN 55402; and
Mark D. Nyvold, The First National Bank Building, Suite W-1610, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
Appellant James Rodney Henkemeyer appeals from his conviction for first-degree controlled substance crime under Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subds. 2(1), 3(b) (2000). Appellant argues that the drug evidence should have been suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful inventory search.
Although he contested the validity of the stop at the omnibus hearing, appellant conceded at oral arguments in this court that the stop was lawful. Appellant only challenges the lawfulness of the inventory search, an issue he did not specifically raise at the omnibus hearing. While this court need not consider an issue that was not raised before the district court, we may address such an issue in the interests of justice and when the other party is not unfairly surprised. State v. Busse, 644 N.W.2d 79, 89 (Minn. 2002).
Because the record establishes that the drug evidence was discovered during a properly executed inventory search conducted in accordance with departmental policy, we affirm appellant’s conviction.
The appellate court reviews the district court’s suppression order de novo. State v. Wiegand, 645 N.W.2d 125, 129 (Minn. 2002). The burden of proof is on the state to establish an exception to the search warrant requirement. State v. Ture, 632 N.W.2d 621, 627 (Minn. 2001). “The inventory exception . . . permits the police to search a vehicle provided they (1) follow standard procedures in carrying out the search and (2) perform the search, at least in part, for the purpose of an inventory and not for the sole purpose of investigation.” Id. at 628.
An inventory search may be done without probable cause or a warrant. State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181, 186 (Minn. 1997). Inventory searches are presumed to be reasonable, because police are performing an administrative, caretaking function designed to protect the vehicle owner’s property and shield the police from claims for lost or damaged property. Id. Inventory searches are reviewed “under a standard of objective reasonableness without regard to the underlying intent or motivation of the officers involved.” Id. at 187 (quotation omitted). Objective facts must demonstrate that the officer’s purpose for searching was not solely investigatory, but also for purposes of performing an administrative inventory search. Ture, 632 N.W.2d at 628. This administrative purpose is shown by evidence that the department had an inventory policy and that officers followed that policy. Id. It is not necessary to introduce a written copy of the policy, if testimony is offered to establish the procedures. Id.
Here, a written copy of the department policy was not offered at the omnibus hearing because the legality of the inventory search was not challenged at that hearing. However, detailed testimony of the department’s inventory policy was presented at trial. In particular, police officers testified that a decision was made to impound appellant’s vehicle because its sole license plate did not match the vehicle identification number and appellant had no proof of insurance or ownership. Officers further testified that (1) when impounding a car, an officer must fill out a sheet with a carbon copy; (2) the officer must follow standard inventory procedures; (3) the outside of each vehicle is examined for damage; (4) the inside of the vehicle is inspected for personal property and all items are recorded on the impound sheet; (5) any other equipment in the vehicle is noted; and (6) the inspection and inventory must occur at the scene of the impoundment. According to officers, this procedure was followed here.
Appellant argues that because he was initially ticketed for equipment violations, he should have been permitted to take his personal belongings from the car, including the bag in which the drug evidence was found, and leave the scene. The purpose of an inventory search is to prevent theft or loss of personal property from impounded vehicles and to protect the police from unwarranted claims. Here, appellant had no proof of ownership or insurance and was driving with license plates that did not match the registration of the car, thus raising the question of whether the car was stolen. Under these circumstances, the officers acted properly by refusing to release any property to appellant.
Based on the evidence introduced at trial, we conclude that police conducted a valid inventory search of a lawfully impounded vehicle. The district court therefore did not err by refusing to suppress the drug evidence.