This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed July 26, 2005
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 03087132
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-2134; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael K. Walz, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public
Defender, Suzanne Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant David Natee appeals from his conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, arguing that police who received a report of a robbery in the area did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop him. Specifically, appellant argues that because the stop (1) occurred more than three hours after the robbery, (2) was based on a generic description of the robbery suspect, and (3) occurred in a busy urban area, from which the robbery suspect could have easily escaped in three hours, the stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights. We affirm.
Appellant was found in possession of a handgun on December 8, 2003. He was subsequently charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (Supp. 2002). Appellant moved to suppress the handgun, arguing that the officer who seized him and conducted a pat search did so without reasonable, articulable suspicion and, thus, violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
At the omnibus hearing, the
arresting officer testified that, on December 8, 2003, he and his partner were
on patrol in the vicinity of
The officer also identified appellant in court and stated that, when he saw appellant on December 8, appellant “had dark pants, like dark black pants, as well as a dark jacket . . . [and] shoes which were black and they had like a white stripe or line going.” The officer testified that he and his partner “thought this was a possible match in our suspect, so [they] stopped him.”
Finally, the officer testified that, when he stopped appellant, he conducted a pat search because “the other information [he] received was that this suspect had a handgun. And [he] wanted to make sure before [he and his partner] talked to [appellant] that [appellant] wasn’t armed.” The officer stated that “when I got up to the jacket I could feel through the jacket what I could tell was a handgun.” Appellant was subsequently taken into custody.
The district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress the gun. In its oral explanation, the court pointed out that “the level of proof . . . to make a Terry stop is not the same as probable cause.” And the court stated, “[T]he officer indicated that although he had seen other people in the area and there was no question about whether he had arrested them or stopped them but the officer indicated that they did not meet all of the criteria given by the victim. So this was the first person who seemed to meet all of the criteria.”
Appellant subsequently opted for a Lothenbach proceeding and was found guilty by the district court. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we 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 (
First, it is axiomatic that the Fourth
Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
A police officer may stop and
temporarily seize a person in order to investigate if the officer reasonably
suspects that person of criminal activity.
State v. Cripps, 533 N.W.2d
388, 391 (
argues here, as he did before the district court, that the description relied
on by the arresting officer as a basis for stopping him was too general to
provide reasonable, articulable suspicion.
In fact, appellant argues, allowing such a common description to
suffice—when coupled with the three-hour span of time between the robbery and
the search of appellant—equates to allowing the Minneapolis Police Department the
right to search any young, African-American male in
at the omnibus hearing the officer pointed to the specific facts that he relied
on in determining to stop appellant.
Namely, appellant’s physical description: he is around 5’7” and African-American. And the clothes appellant was wearing:
appellant “had dark pants, like dark black pants, as well as a dark jacket . .
. and shoes which were black and they had like a white stripe or line going.” Both appellant’s physical description and his
clothing closely matched the description of the robber as given by the
victim. In addition, the officer
testified that there were a number of people on the street at the same time as
appellant that he did not stop—this fact adds credence to the officer’s
assertion that appellant was stopped because he closely resembled the
description given by the robbery victim.
Accordingly, we conclude that the officer’s determination to stop appellant
was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion that appellant had been
involved in criminal activity.
because the officer stopped appellant based on the fact that his description
matched that of an armed robber, it is clear that a pat search was
justified. See State v. Varnado,
582 N.W.2d 886, 889 (