This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





Allen James Slate,




Filed January 24, 2006


Halbrooks, Judge



Ramsey County District Court

File No. K1-03-3794



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


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark Nathan Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, 50 Kellogg Boulevard West, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)


Barry V. Voss, Barry V. Voss, P.A., 527 Marquette Avenue South, Suite 1050, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence.  He alleges that the arresting officers were not justified in conducting an inventory search of his vehicle because he had arranged for a friend to pick up the vehicle.  Because the search was valid as a search incident to arrest, we affirm.


            Police officers observed appellant, who was the driver and sole occupant of a vehicle, fail to properly signal a turn.  The officers ran a license plate check on the vehicle and learned that the registered owner had a revoked driver’s license.  The officers were able to view appellant and believed that he fit the description of the registered owner.  The officers activated their emergency lights in an attempt to initiate a traffic stop.  Appellant turned into a gas station parking lot, where the officers conducted the traffic stop. 

            Appellant provided the officers with his driver’s license but had no proof of insurance.  He stated that he had just purchased the vehicle and that it was not registered to him.  After running a driver’s license check on appellant, the officers learned that his license was suspended and that appellant had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant from Dakota County.  The officers then arrested appellant and searched the passenger compartment of his vehicle.  The officers decided to tow appellant’s vehicle, because they could not leave it in a business parking lot. 

            During the search of appellant’s vehicle, the officers located a bottle holder containing nine small baggies in the vehicle’s center-console area.  Each of the baggies contained cocaine, totaling 12.3 grams.  The officers also found a cell-phone case that contained an additional four baggies of cocaine, totaling 7.3 grams, and a baggie containing 0.7 grams of methamphetamine.  In addition, the officers found a wallet with approximately $3,000 in cash in it. 

            Appellant moved to suppress the evidence at an omnibus hearing.  The district court denied appellant’s motion and subsequently found appellant guilty following a stipulated-facts trial.  Appellant now appeals the district court’s order denying his motion to suppress.


            “[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 (Minn. 1992).  When reviewing the legality of a seizure or search, we will not reverse the district court’s findings unless clearly erroneous or contrary to law.  In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 690 (Minn. 1997).

            Appellant does not contest the officers’ justification for the stop.  But he argues that the search was not justified because he had arranged for a friend to pick up his car, so there was no need for the police to impound it and hence no need for an inventory search. 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution both guarantee the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.  Generally, a search conducted without a search warrant is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.  Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 454-55, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 2032 (1971). 

But certain exceptions allow a search to be conducted without a warrant.  Geer v. State, 406 N.W.2d 34, 35 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. July 15, 1987).  A search incident to a lawful arrest is one of those exceptions.  United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 235, 94 S. Ct. 467, 477 (1973).  The rationale for allowing a warrantless search incident to arrest is to prevent a suspect from harming a police officer and to prevent the destruction of evidence.  Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 762-63, 89 S. Ct. 2034, 2040 (1969).  “A search incident to arrest is valid by itself and does not require any additional justification.”  State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 892 (Minn. 1998) (citing Robinson, 414 U.S. at 235, 94 S. Ct. at 467); see also New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 460, 101 S. Ct. 2860, 2864 (1981)“[W]hen a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile.”  Belton, 453 U.S. at 460, 101 S. Ct. at 2864 (footnote omitted); see also State v. Liljedahl, 327 N.W.2d 27, 30 (Minn. 1982).  “However, the crime for which there is probable cause to arrest must be a crime for which a custodial arrest is authorized.”  Varnado, 582 N.W.2d at 892. 

Here, appellant does not challenge the stop, as the officers observed appellant violate a traffic law when appellant failed to properly signal a turn.  Once stopped, appellant provided the officers with his driver’s license, and a check of his license revealed that appellant had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant issued by Dakota County.  The officers arrested appellant on the outstanding warrant.

Incident to that arrest, the officers searched the passenger compartment of appellant’s vehicle.  Because the officers had probable cause to arrest appellant and did arrest him and because a custodial arrest was authorized, both the officers’ search of his vehicle and seizure of the contraband were valid.