This opinion will be unpublished and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
Chisago County District Court
File No. KX03997
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 1800, Bremer Tower, 445
Minnesota Street, St. Paul,
Katherine M. Johnson, Chisago County Attorney, Daniel R. Vlieger, Assistant County Attorney, Chisago County Government Center, Room 373, 313 North Main Street, Center City, MN 55012 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Suzanne M.
Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Following a Lothenbach trial, appellant Trevor Joseph Wunderlich was convicted of being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2002). On appeal, he argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence of the firearm because it was discovered as a result of an impermissibly expanded traffic stop. Because the officers had reasonable articulable suspicion to expand the scope of the stop, we affirm.
At approximately 11:40 p.m. on June 3, 2003, Officer Jackie Karels
of the Wyoming Police Department advised Corporal R.S. Berg of the Chisago
County Sheriff’s office that she had received a tip of an imminent drug deal to
occur near the Stacy Conoco/IGA. The information
Karels possessed indicated that a person named “Trevor,” who was possibly in
possession of a stolen handgun, was en route from the
Sittlow proceeded toward Stacy from North Branch. He saw appellant’s vehicle exiting Interstate 35 into Stacy. The IGA is right around the corner from the Stacy off-ramp. Sittlow noticed that appellant’s windshield was cracked and his right taillight was cracked and emitting white light. Sittlow stopped appellant on the shoulder of the off-ramp just before midnight for these equipment violations. Appellant does not challenge the legality of the initial stop.
Sittlow asked appellant for his driver’s license and proof of insurance. Appellant identified himself as Trevor Joseph Wunderlich and said that he did not have his driver’s license or proof of insurance with him. Appellant’s passenger identified herself as Dakota Rae Bue and stated that she did not have a driver’s license with her. From his squad car, Sittlow checked the registration of the vehicle and learned that it was registered to Sean Cable. Sittlow questioned appellant about the registration, and appellant said he bought the vehicle a month earlier and had transferred the title.
Sittlow returned to his squad car and checked appellant’s record. He learned that appellant had several traffic violations, including a license revocation for possession of a controlled substance in February 2002, as well as a violation for giving false information to a police officer in April 2002. But appellant had a current, valid driver’s license and no outstanding warrants. Sittlow then asked appellant for some identification with his name on it, and appellant gave him a sport-shooting card. Sittlow asked about insurance and appellant stated that Progressive insured the vehicle and that the insurance was either in his name or his mother’s name. Sittlow advised appellant that he planned to contact the insurance company to verify that the vehicle was insured.
Karels and Berg both came to the
scene of the stop. Berg recognized Bue
as having been involved in controlled-substance violations in
Berg made contact with Progressive and verified coverage at approximately 12:50 a.m. Trooper Frisby arrived with a drug-sniffing dog at approximately 1:00 a.m. After appellant refused consent to search the vehicle, Frisby walked the dog around the vehicle. The dog alerted to the passenger door. Appellant and Bue were asked to step out of the vehicle. As appellant stepped out of the driver’s side, Sittlow observed what appeared to be a handgun case partially exposed underneath the seat near the floor mat. Appellant was handcuffed and pat searched. Sittlow recovered a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver from the handgun case. Suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were recovered from two handbags located inside the vehicle.
Appellant was charged with being an
ineligible person in possession of a firearm.
He moved to suppress evidence of the firearm, arguing that it was
discovered as a result of an illegal search and seizure. The district court denied the motion to
suppress, and appellant agreed to a court trial pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (
“[W]hen reviewing a pre-trial order
suppressing evidence where the facts are not in dispute and the trial court’s
decision is a question of law, the reviewing court may independently review the
facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the evidence need be
suppressed.” State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (
Generally, detention of the person
stopped may continue only as long as reasonably necessary to effectuate the
purpose of the stop.
Appellant asserts that the detention in this case “was a thin veil to disguise the officers’ deliberate attempt to delay . . . in order to investigate a possible drug transaction.” And appellant dismisses the tip about a possible drug deal as amounting only to a “mere hunch.” We agree that the anonymous tip in this case was not sufficient to justify the stop of appellant’s vehicle, but we disagree with the suggestion that the officers could not consider the tip in evaluating whether there was reasonable, articulable suspicion that appellant might possess drugs.
In the context of evaluating
probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, case law establishes that
even though an anonymous tip is not sufficient to give rise to probable cause,
the tip may be sufficiently corroborated to provide the required probable
cause. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 233, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2329 (1983)
(rejecting a rigid approach to evaluation of reliability of tips to establish
probable cause for issuance of warrant in favor of a totality-of-the-circumstances
test that evaluates an anonymous tip plus information corroborating the
tip). And in
What was important was the caller’s ability to predict respondent’s future behavior, because it demonstrated inside information [that] . . .[t]he general public would have no way of knowing . . . . [I]t is reasonable for police to believe that a person with access to such information is likely to also have access to reliable information about that individual’s illegal activities.
In this case, Sittlow, who was on his way to investigate the tip, legally stopped a car that was, within the time frame provided by the tipster, traveling in the direction predicted by the tipster; driven by a person named “Trevor,” which was consistent with the tip; toward the nearby IGA, the predicted site of a drug deal. These factors that corroborated the anonymous tip constituted more than a mere hunch or whim and supported Sittlow’s reasonable suspicion that appellant could be involved with drugs.
Berg then arrived at the scene and provided the further
information that Bue was known to be involved with controlled substances. The officers were also aware that appellant
had previously lost his license due to some involvement with drug-related
activity. Although knowledge of a
person’s past arrests or past criminal convictions cannot serve alone as the
basis for reasonable suspicion, see United
States v. Sandoval, 29 F.3d 537, 542 (10th Cir. 1994), an individual’s prior
conduct or record combined with other factors may create reasonable
suspicion. See, e.g., United States v. Chamberlin, 644 F.2d 1262, 1265 (9th
Cir. 1980) (holding that knowledge of criminal record, combined with suspect
looking worried, quickening pace, and beginning to run from officer, supported
reasonable suspicion). The test is
whether the totality of the circumstances and rational inferences available
from the known facts would permit a reasonable, articulable suspicion. See, e.g.,
State v. Martinson, 581 N.W.2d 846, 852 (
Under the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the officers had reasonable, articulable suspicion that the occupants of the vehicle could be involved in drug-related activities justifying the expanded duration and scope of the initial stop to include the use of a drug-sniffing dog. Because the stop was not impermissibly extended, the district court did not err in denying appellant’s motion to suppress.
 The Minnesota Supreme Court recently issued its decision in State v. Carter, 697 N.W.2d 199 (Minn. 2005), in which the court held that a drug-detection sniff outside of a self-storage unit is a search within the meaning of the Minnesota Constitution. 697 N.W.2d at 211. We see nothing in Carter that abrogates Wiegand’s holdings that a drug-sniff outside of a lawfully stopped vehicle is not a search requiring probable cause under either the Fourth Amendment or the Minnesota Constitution, but that reasonable suspicion of drug-related criminal activity is required before conducting a drug-detection sniff. 645 N.W.2d at 133, 137. And, under Carter, which required only reasonable, articulable suspicion before conducting such a drug-detection sniff outside of a self-storage unit, rather than probable cause, 697 N.W.2d at 211, the level of suspicion required remains something less than probable cause.
 The information passed from officer to officer in this case is similar to an anonymous telephone tip. The record contains no information as to where or how Officer Karels obtained the information, such as from a confidential reliable informant.