This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






State of Minnesota,





William Lee Samuels,



Filed November 15, 2005

Klaphake, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K5-03-2180


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)


Kenneth M. Bottema, 2915 South Wayzata Boulevard, Minneapolis, MN  55405 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On the afternoon of June 18, 2003, appellant William Lee Samuels was arrested and charged with second-degree controlled substance crime under Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subd. 2(1) (2002) (possession of one or more mixtures of cocaine totaling six grams or more).  Earlier in the day, a confidential reliable informant (CRI) told Ramsey County Deputy Sheriff Jay Maher that appellant would be driving in the area of Burns Avenue and Earl Street at about 2:00 p.m.  The CRI accurately described appellant, a 6’5”, 300-pound black man, and his vehicle, a maroon or burgundy Chevy Suburban with dark tinted windows and “nice rims.”  The CRI also told Deputy Maher that appellant “routinely at any given time could be found with narcotics concealed in the steering wheel cover” of his Suburban.  The CRI identified appellant from his driver’s license photo. 

Appellant was stopped after he appeared in his vehicle at the time and location predicted by the CRI; he was arrested when police discovered 20.3 grams of cocaine inside the steering wheel.  Following an omnibus hearing, the district court issued an order finding that police had probable cause to search appellant’s vehicle.  Appellant was tried on stipulated facts pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980). 

            Appellant now contends that the district court erred in concluding that the CRI’s tip was sufficient to support probable cause to search his vehicle.  Because the district court did not err in concluding that police had probable cause to search appellant’s vehicle, we affirm.


            Both state and federal constitutional law protect persons from unreasonable searches and seizures.  U.S. Const. amend. IV.; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.  A police search conducted without a warrant is presumptively unreasonable and therefore unconstitutional.  State v. Munson, 594 N.W.2d 128, 135 (Minn. 1999).  The automobile exception to this rule permits a warrantless search of an automobile if the search is supported by probable cause.  United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 809, 102 S. Ct. 2157, 2164 (1982).  Probable cause is defined as “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.”  State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 268 (Minn. 1985) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2332 (1983)).

            Courts determine whether information provided by a CRI establishes probable cause by considering the totality of the circumstances, particularly “the credibility and veracity of the informant.”  Munson, 594 N.W.2d at 136.  An informant who has previously given reliable information is presumed reliable, and if an informant is not presumed reliable, police can establish reliability by corroborating information provided by the informant.  State v. Ross, 676 N.W.2d 301, 304 (Minn. App. 2004) (enumerating six factors to consider in determining reliability of confidential, known informant to support warrantless search of vehicle).  “There is no need for law-enforcement officers to provide specifics of the informant’s past veracity.”  Id.  A “simple statement” by police that the informant has been reliable in the past provides a presumption of reliability.  Id. 

            Appellant claims that the state failed to establish that the CRI was reliable and did not sufficiently corroborate his information.  Because Deputy Maher testified that the CRI had previously given reliable information to police on several occasions, the district court could presume that the CRI was reliable.  Deputy Maher made the “simple statement” required by Ross that the CRI had provided reliable information in the past.  See id. at 304.  Contrary to appellant’s suggestion that the officer was required to establish that the CRI had provided information that led to arrests or convictions of others, Ross specifically notes that the law does not require more than the bald statement of the CRI’s past veracity.  Id.    

            And, in this case, the state established the CRI’s reliability by evidence corroborating the CRI’s tip before stopping appellant and searching his car.  Appellant and his vehicle both matched the descriptions given by the CRI, and appellant appeared at the exact location where the CRI said he would be at the time the CRI said he would be there, driving on a revoked license.  The CRI also stated that drugs could be found in the steering wheel of the vehicle, a “unique location” for purposes of determining whether probable cause existed to search appellant’s vehicle.  See State v. Demry, 605 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Minn. App. 2000) (among other circumstances, “unique location of narcotics” predicted by CRI used to support probable cause to search vehicle), review denied (Minn. Mar. 28, 2000).  This evidence properly supports the district court’s conclusion that the CRI was reliable for purposes of establishing probable cause to search appellant’s vehicle.

            Appellant also contends that the information provided by the CRI was stale because it did not pinpoint a date when the CRI knew that appellant had drugs in his vehicle.  Deputy Maher testified at the omnibus hearing that the CRI stated that drugs could be found in appellant’s steering wheel “routinely at any given time.”  While Deputy Maher testified that he did not ask the CRI further questions to establish a historical timeline of the CRI’s knowledge of when drugs could be found in the vehicle, the state needed only to provide information that indicated appellant’s ongoing criminal activity to avoid a claim of staleness.  See State v. Souto, 578 N.W.2d 744, 750 (Minn. 1998) (information supporting probable cause to issue search warrant not stale where informant provided evidence of ongoing, protracted, drug activity).  Here, the CRI contacted appellant only a few hours before the arrest, and that, coupled with the statement that appellant “routinely” carried drugs in his steering wheel, provided information that was not stale.

            Because the record includes evidence that the CRI was reliable, both as a person who had provided past reliable information to police, and as a person whose tip was corroborated, we conclude that the district court did not err in determining that there was probable cause to search appellant’s vehicle.[1] 


[1] Because we affirm on the probable cause to search issue and because the district court did not consider or decide whether the police had probable cause to arrest appellant, we decline to address this issue.