This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





John Elmer Erickson,




Filed November 1, 2005


Lansing, Judge



Cass County District Court

File No. K6-04-116



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Tibor M. Gallo, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 1800, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and


Earl E. Maus, Cass County Attorney, P.O. Box 3000, Walker, MN 56484(for respondent)


John Stuart, State Public Defender, Suzanne M. Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 425, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414(for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            In this appeal from conviction of attempted first-degree controlled-substance crime (sale), John Erickson contests the constitutional validity of the search that led to the discovery of methamphetamine on his person and additional narcotics and related items in his car.  Erickson contends that police impermissibly expanded the scope of a traffic stop without an articulable suspicion of a different offense.  Because the police had not only an articulable basis for the traffic stop, but also probable cause to search, the search was constitutionally valid, and we affirm.


            A Cass County Sheriff’s Department special agent who monitored telephone conversations at the Cass County Detention Center learned that John Erickson was dealing narcotics with an inmate.  The agent later spoke with a confidential reliable informant who told him that Erickson was at a residence in Remer, described what Erickson was wearing, said that Erickson had methamphetamine on his person and in his car, and said that Erickson would be leaving the residence to drive toward Bemidji in his white, four-door Chevrolet with Minnesota plates.

            Approximately one hour later, the agent began surveillance of the Remer residence.  When he saw a person who matched the informant’s description of Erickson get into a white, four-door car, the agent summoned another officer in a marked squad car, and they began to follow the white car on a highway leading to Bemidji.  The officer perceived that Erickson’s car was speeding, activated his siren and overhead lights, and stopped the car.  The agent confirmed Erickson’s identity by asking for his driver’s license and then told him that he had reason to suspect the car contained methamphetamine and asked if he could search it.  Erickson did not consent to a search.

            The agent asked Erickson to step out of the car so that he could seal it in anticipation of obtaining a search warrant.  The agent testified that he intended to detain Erickson in the squad car and did a precautionary frisk for weapons.  In Erickson’s pocket, the agent found a glass tube containing what he believed to be methamphetamine.  The agent and the officer took Erickson, along with his towed car, to the Remer Police Department.  Erickson admitted that the car contained additional methamphetamine, and, based on this admission, the agent searched the car.  The search produced narcotics, handguns, items used for the sale of narcotics, and a notebook documenting alleged sales of narcotics.

            As a result of the items obtained from the search, the state charged Erickson with possession and sale of a controlled substance.  Erickson moved to suppress the evidence seized during and after the traffic stop, arguing that the traffic stop was pretextual.  The district court determined that the agent had a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity and that Erickson’s excessive speed provided an objective basis for the traffic stop.  Reasoning that the agent had specific knowledge of Erickson’s involvement in illegal drug activity and that dangerous weapons typically accompany this activity, the district court concluded that the search of Erickson’s person was constitutionally justified.  The district court also concluded that the state presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause.

            Following the district court’s denial of Erickson’s motion to suppress, the state agreed to amend count I of the complaint to attempted first-degree controlled-substance crime (sale) and dismissed count II in exchange for Erickson’s waiver of a jury trial and agreement to submit the case to the district court on stipulated facts.  The district court found Erickson guilty of the amended charge.  Erickson appeals from his conviction, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress.


When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we “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 (Minn. 1999).  Generally, officers may conduct investigative stops so long as they have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting criminal activity.  State v. Smallwood, 594 N.W.2d 144, 155 (Minn. 1999).  Any expansion of the scope or duration of an investigative stop is proper only when the officers have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of other criminal activity.  State v. Wiegand, 645 N.W.2d 125, 135 (Minn. 2002).

To determine whether the expansion in scope or duration of a traffic stop is appropriate, courts consider the totality of the circumstances and rational inferences available from the known facts that would permit a reasonable, articulable suspicion.  See, e.g., State v. Martinson,581 N.W.2d 846, 852 (Minn. 1998) (observing that “factors in their totality” created reasonable suspicion, although no single factor was “independently suspicious”).  Any intrusion “not closely related to the initial justification for the search or seizure is invalid . . . unless there is independent probable cause or reasonableness to justify that particular intrusion.”  State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 364 (Minn. 2004). 

Erickson argues that, although the police had a proper basis for the original traffic stop, the scope of the stop was impermissibly expanded when he was told to step out of the car.  He contends that this detention was not related to the basis for the traffic stop and that the fruits of the subsequent search should have been suppressed.  Erickson does not contest, however, the reliability of the information provided by the informant, and the record establishes that the agent had first-hand knowledge of Erickson’s suspected narcotics activities from the detention center phone calls.  Neither does Erickson contest the validity of the traffic stop for speeding, and the record provides uncontested evidence that the car was significantly exceeding the speed limit.  This evidence, together with the confirmation of Erickson’s identity through the driver’s-license check provides sufficient information for the issuance of a search warrant.  Consequently, the police acted reasonably in telling Erickson to step out of the car so they could seal it and obtain the warrant.  Erickson has not demonstrated that the scope and duration of the stop exceeded the applicable legal standard.

As part of his argument on improper scope and duration, Erickson contends that the precautionary frisk was constitutionally improper because no “additional suspicious or threatening circumstances [were] present.”  State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 890 (Minn. 1998).  But the agent was preparing to detain Erickson in the squad car pending the receipt of a search warrant, and in the precautionary frisk the agent felt an item that he believed was a lighter that a detainee could use to start a fire in the squad car.  In considering the basis for the frisk, the district court also relied on the agent’s specific knowledge about Erickson’s methamphetamine possession and noted that dangerous weapons often accompany the sale of illegal drugs.

The scope and duration of the detention were justified by the agent’s specific knowledge of Erickson’s involvement in narcotics activity, the corroboration of that knowledge by the informant, the further corroboration of the informant’s tip by Erickson’s departure from the residence alone in a white car on a route toward Bemidji, the confirmation of Erickson’s identity through his driver’s license, and the ensuing discoveries and admissions.  We, therefore, affirm the district court’s denial of Erickson’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of Erickson’s person and car.