This opinion will be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
Shermon Reginold Hawkins,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 03089425
John M. Stuart, State Public
Defender, Bridget Kearns Sabo, Assistant State Public Defender,
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of first-degree aggravated robbery, arguing that the evidence obtained during the warrantless search of his home should be suppressed. Appellant also argues that the district court erred by failing to issue written findings in support of the conviction, in violation of Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 2. We affirm.
In December 2003, appellant Shermon Hawkins was charged with first-degree aggravated robbery, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.245, subd. 1 (2002), and prohibited possession of a firearm, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subds. 1(b), 2 (2002), for robbing a woman at gunpoint. At the omnibus hearing, Officer Troy Walker and Officer Christopher Tucker testified regarding the events of December 18, 2003, that led to the warrantless entry and search of Hawkins’s home.
According to their testimony, at about 3:30 a.m. on December 18, 2003, Officer Walker and Officer Tucker were dispatched to a residence on Queen Avenue to investigate an armed robbery. They arrived at the scene approximately one minute later. The officers spoke with the robbery victim, L.W., who explained that, as she was walking to her car, she saw two black males arguing in the street. One of the men was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. As L.W. was getting into her car, the man in the sweatshirt approached her, pointed a gun at her, and demanded her money, purse, and coat. L.W. handed over her belongings, and the two men fled. L.W. told the officers that the men took off in different directions—one through her yard and the other down the street.
Because it had been snowing heavily, the officers were able to observe a visible set of footprints leading away from the scene through L.W.’s yard. L.W. indicated that the set of footprints belonged to the individual who had robbed her at gunpoint. Officer Tucker followed the set of footprints while Officer Walker stayed with L.W. Officer Tucker testified that the space between each footprint indicated that the individual had been running.
Tucker followed the footprints through the yard, into an alley, and across
another road. Officer Tucker then
noticed that a second set of footprints accompanied the first set. He was following both sets through a parking
lot when he observed two black males wearing dark clothing cut through the rear
portion of the parking lot and disappear into the back door of a house located on
Not more than a few minutes later, Sergeant Novak, Officer Walker, and at least three other officers arrived and took control of the scene. Sergeant Novak pounded on the door of the house, loudly identified himself as a police officer, and demanded entry. A woman answered the door. Sergeant Novak entered the house and immediately ordered the woman to the floor at gunpoint. The other officers followed and ordered several other individuals to the floor. Sergeant Novak then asked the woman who had answered the door whether anyone had recently arrived at the home. The woman replied that her son and a friend had returned a few moments ago. Just then, Officer Tucker heard yelling. Several officers rushed upstairs to investigate the noise.
Officer Tucker observed a black male, later identified as Hawkins, lying in bed upstairs. The officer noticed that Hawkins’s pants were wet and that he was breathing heavily. His shoes, which were lying near the bed, also were wet. Officer Tucker examined the shoes and concluded that the tread matched the footprints of the robbery suspect who pointed the gun at L.W. Hawkins was placed under arrest for the robbery. Meanwhile, several other officers arrested a second individual who was also found upstairs with wet pants and boots. About five feet from the location where they found the second individual, the officers recovered a gun and L.W.’s coat on the floor of an open closet.
Following the two arrests, Officer Walker transported L.W. to the residence to identify the two suspects. L.W. identified Hawkins as the man who had pointed a gun at her and demanded her belongings. L.W. could not identify the other individual. The entire incident, beginning with the dispatch and culminating in the show-up identification, lasted between 20 and 45 minutes.
Based on this evidence, Hawkins argued at the omnibus hearing that (1) the police lacked probable cause and exigent circumstances to enter his home without a warrant; (2) the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him; and (3) the show-up identification procedure was unduly suggestive. The district court denied the suppression motions. Regarding the search-and-seizure issue on appeal, the district court concluded that, because the police had probable cause to believe the individual who robbed L.W. was inside the house and because the totality of the circumstances illustrated exigent circumstances, the warrantless entry was justified. The district court also determined that the warrantless entry was justified because the officers were in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon. The matter proceeded to trial.
Prior to the commencement of opening statements, Hawkins waived his right to a jury trial and submitted the matter to the district court on stipulated facts pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980). In exchange, the state agreed to dismiss the prohibited-possession-of-a-firearm charge and to recommend a 50-month sentence, which is a downward durational departure from the presumptive guidelines sentence of 68 months. The district court convicted Hawkins of first-degree aggravated robbery and imposed the recommended sentence. In so doing, the district court made detailed oral findings on the record, but did not supplement the record with written findings. This appeal followed.
seeks to suppress all evidence obtained against him on the grounds that the
officers’ warrantless entry into his home violated the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10, of the Minnesota
Constitution. The state contends that
probable cause and exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry. When
the facts are not in dispute, the district court’s decision presents a question
of law, which we review de novo to determine whether, in light of the facts, a
warrantless entry and search were justified.
State v. Paul, 548 N.W.2d 260,
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of
the Minnesota Constitution proscribe unreasonable searches by the government of
“persons, houses, papers, and effects.”
U.S. Const. amend. IV;
first argues that the warrantless entry was unreasonable because the officers
lacked probable cause to believe that he committed the aggravated robbery and
that he was on the premises. Probable
cause exists when it is reasonable to believe that a crime has been committed by
the person to be arrested. Paul, 548 N.W.2d at 264; State v. Olson, 436 N.W.2d 92, 94 (
The record demonstrates that Officers Tucker and Walker arrived at the scene of the robbery approximately one minute after they were dispatched. L.W. informed the officers that the individual who robbed her ran through her yard, and she pointed out his footprints in the fresh snow. L.W. also advised the officers that a second man took off down the street. L.W. identified the suspects as two black males, one wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
Tucker immediately began following the suspect’s footprints in the snow; the
footprints led to a parking lot. At that
point, Officer Tucker observed that a second set of footprints appeared with
the first, signifying that the two men had reunited. Officer Tucker followed both sets of footprints
through the parking lot and then observed two men fitting the robbers’ descriptions
enter the back door of a house on Russell Avenue. Officer Tucker witnessed the two men enter
the house not more than 10 minutes after he was dispatched to the scene of the
robbery. While awaiting backup, Officer
Tucker checked for footprints leaving through the front door of the house. Finding none, Officer Tucker concluded that
the two individuals were still inside. Based
on these facts, the officers had ample evidence to believe that the two men who
entered the house on
conclusion comports with the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in Lohnes, a factually analogous case. In
Lohnes, the police entered the
defendant’s residence without a warrant after tracking the defendant from the
scene of an assault to the residence.
344 N.W.2d at 607-08. The supreme
court held that the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant
committed assault because (1) the defendant was the last person seen with the
victim before the assault; (2) the victim had been assaulted in the room where the
defendant was last seen; (3) a green Pontiac was observed leaving the premises
shortly after the assault; (4) the defendant had been driving a green Pontiac
the night before; and (5) the green Pontiac was parked outside the residence that
the police ultimately entered.
In Lohnes, tracking the car the defendant was driving from the scene of the crime to a residence provided the police with probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime and was inside the residence. Similarly, here, the police tracked footprints, identified by the victim as the perpetrator’s, from the scene of the crime to a residence. In both cases, although the police neither witnessed the crime nor observed the suspect travel from the scene of the crime to safety, some obvious trail—a unique car or footprints—provided the police with a reasonable belief that the perpetrator was inside the home to be searched. As in Lohnes,the officers here had sufficient probable cause to believe that Hawkins had committed a crime and was now seeking sanctuary in his home.
We next consider whether the record establishes exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless entry into Hawkins’s home. The state has the burden of demonstrating the existence of exigent circumstances. Gray, 456 N.W.2d at 256. There generally are two types of tests for exigent circumstances. The “single-factor” test relies on one fact alone to establish exigent circumstances. D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d at 791. In the absence of a single factor establishing exigent circumstances, a “totality of the circumstances” test may be employed. Id.
none of the single-factor exigent circumstances applies here, we apply the
totality-of-the-circumstances analysis using the following six factors: (1)
whether a grave or violent offense is involved; (2) whether the suspect is
reasonably believed to be armed; (3) whether there is strong probable cause connecting
the suspect to the offense; (4) whether police have a strong reason to believe
the suspect is on the premises; (5) whether it is likely the suspect will
escape if not swiftly apprehended; and (6) whether peaceable entry was
made. Gray, 456 N.W.2d at 256 (applying analysis of Dorman v.
The Dorman factors are not exhaustive, however, and Minnesota courts have considered other factors in assessing the exigencies of the situation, such as the timeliness of the officers’ arrival and conduct at the scene. B.R.K., 658 N.W.2d at 580. When an arrest culminates from a rapidly developing situation in the field with only a short time elapsing between the time the officer learns of the crime and the warrantless search and arrest in the suspect’s home, exigent circumstances are more likely. Id.; 2 W. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 6.1(f) at 605-08 (2d ed. 1987) (distinguishing between arrest planned in advance, which likely lacks exigent circumstances, and arrest that occurs in the field as part of unfolding developments). We also consider the time necessary to obtain a warrant. D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d at 791. Although the mere inconvenience of obtaining a warrant alone will not justify an unreasonable intrusion into a suspect’s home, B.R.K., 658 N.W.2d at 580, the Minnesota Supreme Court has acknowledged the difficulty of obtaining an arrest warrant in the middle of the night, Gray, 456 N.W.2d at 256.
The district court properly applied the Dorman factors and concluded that exigent circumstances existed to justify the warrantless entry. First, robbery is clearly a “grave or violent” offense, especially when perpetrated with a gun. B.R.K., 658 N.W.2d at 579. Because Hawkins approached L.B. at night, pointed a gun at her, and demanded her belongings, Hawkins committed a violent offense. Second, because Hawkins used a gun to commit the robbery and Officer Tucker saw no signs that the gun had been dropped between the scene of the robbery and his house, the officers could reasonably assume that Hawkins was still armed.
Third, as discussed above, the officers had probable cause to believe that one of the two individuals who entered the house committed armed robbery. The Minnesota Supreme Court has cautioned, however, that even if the facts known to the officers prior to entry may have established probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, the probable cause may not be sufficiently strong to authorize a warrantless search. D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d at 791-92. We are convinced, however, that the record demonstrates “strong” probable cause. Rather than merely providing a reasonable belief, the facts known to Officer Tucker establish that he was reasonably certain that the individuals he saw enter the house were connected to the armed robbery based on L.W.’s description of the suspects, her indication to the officers that one of the suspects fled on foot into her yard, and the uninterrupted footprints leading from the crime scene directly to the house.
Fourth, Officer Tucker had a strong reason to believe that Hawkins was inside the premises searched. Officer Tucker tracked the suspects’ footprints from the crime scene to the house and observed two men matching the description given by L.W. enter the premises. While awaiting backup, Officer Tucker checked for additional tracks near the front door and continued to watch the exits to ensure that the suspects did not leave the house. No one left the residence, and several minutes later, the officers went inside.
the record plainly establishes the first four Dorman factors, the evidence is not as weighty for the remaining Dorman factors. As to the fifth factor, the officers had no particular
reason to believe that Hawkins would escape if he was not swiftly
apprehended. To the contrary, Hawkins
was not aware that Officer Tucker had tracked him from the crime scene. Thus, Hawkins likely concluded that he was
safe once inside his home and would remain there, giving the officers time to
obtain a search warrant. Nonetheless,
there is no requirement that all of the Dorman
factors be satisfied before a warrantless search is justified. State
v. Hummel, 483 N.W.2d 68, 73 (
As to the sixth factor, at least four officers entered the home with guns drawn and ordered several individuals to the floor. Entering a home in this manner “does not constitute peaceable entry under any circumstances.” D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d at 791. But if the police make a quick entry, use reasonable force, and prevent injury to others, the absence of peaceable entry will not preclude a finding of exigent circumstances. Gray, 456 N.W.2d at 256. Thus, although the entry was not peaceable, the officers’ conduct does not preclude a finding of exigent circumstances where, as here, the police acted quickly and without excessive force.
In addition to the Dorman analysis, other facts weigh in favor of concluding that exigent circumstances existed. The police responded to the robbery and apprehended Hawkins quickly. Hawkins’s arrest was not planned in advance. Rather, his arrest was a culmination of a rapidly developing situation in the field with only a short time elapsing between when the officers were dispatched to the crime scene and the moment Hawkins was apprehended. Officer Tucker testified that the events leading up to the arrest may have transpired in only 20 minutes. Officer Tucker’s conduct, as well as the actions of the other officers who later arrived on the scene, is consistent with the presence of exigent circumstances. In addition, the robbery took place at 3:30 a.m. when it would have been difficult to obtain a search warrant quickly. Accordingly, the Dorman analysis and the presence of additional facts consistent with a determination that exigent circumstances existed lead us to conclude that the warrantless entry was reasonable.
decision is consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Warden v. Hayden, 387
As in Hayden, Officers Walker and Tucker arrived at the scene of an aggravated robbery “within minutes” after receiving the initial call. L.W. gave Officer Tucker a description of the suspects and identified one of the suspect’s footprints in the snow leading away from the scene. Officer Tucker immediately initiated pursuit of the fleeing felon. He followed the only visible set of footprints until a second set of footprints joined with the first and then spotted two men matching the victim’s descriptions enter a house. The police entered the premises several minutes later. The entire episode, beginning with the dispatch and culminating in a show-up identification, took between 20 and 45 minutes. The officers engaged in an immediate and continuous pursuit from the crime scene to the suspect’s abode, demonstrating exigent circumstances that justify a warrantless entry.
Hawkins also argues that the district court’s failure to make written findings following the trial on stipulated facts requires remand.
In a case tried without a jury, . . . [t]he court, within 7 days after the general finding in felony . . . cases, shall in addition specifically find the essential facts in writing on the record. . . . If an opinion or memorandum of decision is filed, it is sufficient if the findings of fact appear therein. If the court omits a finding on any issue of fact essential to sustain the general finding, it shall be deemed to have made a finding consistent with the general finding.
Minn. R. Crim.
P. 26.01, subd. 2. The purpose of
written findings is to aid an appellate court in reviewing a conviction
resulting from a bench trial. State v. Scarver, 458 N.W.2d 167, 168 (
Here, the district court did not submit written findings evaluating the evidence within seven days after its general finding of guilt. The district court, however, made specific oral findings as to the aggravated-robbery conviction. The district court stated:
The facts establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a weapon was pointed at [L.W.] in Hennepin County, property was taken from her, the weapon was used to overcome her resistance, and the personal property was recovered at the . . . Russell address. Officers tracked the footprints—an officer singular[ly] tracked the footprints from the crime scene to the residence. A search of the residence fairly quickly after the incident found the defendant present in the residence. The victim positively identified [him] in a show-up . . . . There were three black hoodies found in the adjoining room, and later, a search warrant finding the victim’s property hidden in the attic, which indicates to me that the parties involved had a chance or an opportunity to try to hide evidence and shift things around, so the fact that the gun was found and the coat was found in the room with [the other juvenile] rather than the defendant’s room does not establish that [the other juvenile] was the person possessing the gun . . . . I find [L.W.’s] testimony credible and establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant possessed a firearm and was the person that pointed it at her.
The district court further explained:
[I]t’s my conclusion that all of the elements of aggravated robbery in the first degree have been proven. The police officers found the defendant perspiring from the forehead, breathing hard, lying in bed pretending to be asleep with wet pants, the last five or six inches of his pants wet, the shoes matching the description that the victim had said the robbery—followed the path—the shoes followed the pattern and the path that the robber had—who had the gun had taken. Those matched the defendant. They were found at the foot of the bed, and the defendant’s sister indicated that she had been asleep—or been in the bed, and he came in and jumped in bed and pretended to be asleep and asked her to try to tell anyone else that he had—was pretending to be asleep.
The district court’s findings are detailed, thorough, and evaluate nearly all of the evidence submitted. Because these oral findings are more than adequate to permit meaningful appellate review, the absence of written findings does not require remand.
Because the state does not contend that the officers entered the premises with the consent of the homeowner, consent is not an issue in this appeal.
 Some courts have categorized Hayden as an example of “hot pursuit” of a fleeing felon. See,
e.g., United States v. Holland,
511 F.2d 38, 44 (6th Cir. 1975); United
States v. Goldenstein, 456 F.2d 1006, 1011 (8th Cir. 1972); State v. Gray, 456 N.W.2d 251, 256 (