This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota,





Susanne Jean Beutz,



Filed January 17, 2006

Reversed and remanded

Worke, Judge


Mille Lacs County District Court

File No. K1-04-778


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


Janice S. Kolb, Mille Lacs County Attorney, Mark Herzing, Assistant County Attorney, Christopher J. Zipko, Assistant County Attorney, 525 Second Street S.E., Milaca, MN  56353 (for appellant)


Andrew S. Birrell, Birrell & Newmark, Ltd., 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 2270, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Worke, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WORKE, Judge

            This appeal is from a pretrial order suppressing all evidence seized pursuant to search warrants and dismissing the complaint charging a controlled-substance offense.  Appellant argues that the district court clearly erred, and engaged in a hyper-technical review of the warrant applications when it ruled that the information given by three concerned citizens, along with police corroboration of some details and information from a concerned citizen, did not provide sufficient probable cause to issue the search warrants.  Because we conclude that the issuing judge had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed to issue the search warrants (under the totality-of-the-circumstances), we reverse and remand for further proceedings.   


Appellant State of Minnesota argues that the district court erred in granting respondent Susanne Jean Beutz’s motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to search warrants because the district court failed to give deference to the issuing judge’s determination of probable cause and engaged in an overly technical examination of the search warrants.  “When reviewing a pretrial order on a motion to suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine whether, as a matter of law, the district court erred in suppressing or not suppressing the evidence.”  State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353, 359 (Minn. 2004). 

Critical Impact

            On appeal from a pretrial order suppressing evidence, the state must demonstrate “that the district court has clearly and unequivocally erred and that the error, unless reversed, will have a critical impact on the state’s ability to successfully prosecute the defendant.”  State v. Horner, 617 N.W.2d 789, 792 (Minn. 2000).  Here, the district court granted respondent’s motion to suppress all evidence seized pursuant to the search warrants and dismissed the charges against respondent for lack of probable cause.  The district court found the search warrants unconstitutional, citing errors and inaccuracies and the unreliability of the informants.  Because the district court dismissed the charges against respondent, the suppression of the evidence had a critical impact on the state’s ability to prosecute respondent.  See State v. Trei, 624 N.W.2d 595, 597 (Minn. App. 2001) (noting that dismissal of a complaint satisfies the critical-impact requirement), review dismissed (Minn. June 22, 2001). 

Probable Cause

A search warrant may be issued only upon a finding of probable cause by a neutral and detached magistrate.  U.S. Const. Amend. IV; Minn. Const art I, § 10; Minn. Stat.  § 626.08 (2002); see also State v. Harris, 589 N.W.2d 782, 787 (Minn. 1999).  In determining whether a search warrant is supported by probable cause, we do not review the issuing court’s decision de novo.  State v. Souto, 578 N.W.2d 744, 747 (Minn. 1998).  Rather, we afford “great deference” to the issuing court’s finding of probable cause.  Id. This court’s review is limited to ensuring “that the issuing judge had a ‘substantial basis’ for concluding that probable cause existed.”  State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 633 (Minn. 1995) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2332 (1983)).

To determine whether probable cause exists, “[t]he task of the issuing [judge] is simply to make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit, . . . including the ‘veracity’ and ‘basis of knowledge’ of persons supplying hearsay information, there is 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 Gates, 462 U.S. at 238, 103 S. Ct. at 2332).  The court determines probable cause to issue a search warrant under a “totality of the circumstances” test.  Gates, 462 U.S. at 238, 103 S. Ct. at 2332.  “In reviewing the sufficiency of an affidavit under the totality of the circumstances test, [issuing judges] must be careful not to review each component of the affidavit in isolation.”  Wiley, 366 N.W.2d at 268.

a.         Staleness

Appellant argues that the district court erred by ruling that the search warrant is “devoid of any time frame reference.”  Due to the lack of a time-frame reference, citing State v. Harris, 589 N.W.2d 782 (Minn. 1999), the district court found “the application [to be] facially deficient and lacking in probable cause.”  While the supreme court has expressed “strong disapproval of the omission of time from an affidavit in support of a search warrant application[,] . . . under the totality of the circumstances test, such an omission is not per se fatal.”  Harris, 589 N.W.2d at 789 (quotation omitted).  When an application establishes a pattern of ongoing criminal activity, probable cause is not lacking due to staleness.  Souto, 578 N.W.2d at 750 (noting the factors relating to staleness include whether there is an indication of ongoing criminal activity).  This court has “refused to set arbitrary time limits in obtaining a warrant or to substitute a rigid formula for the judge’s informed decision.” State v. Jannetta, 355 N.W.2d 189, 193 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Jan. 14, 1985).  In determining whether information supporting a search warrant is stale, magistrates must apply “practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.” Id. (quoting Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175, 69 S. Ct. 1302, 1310 (1949)).  “The court’s approach should be one of flexibility and common sense.”  Id.

Here, the search warrant referenced information obtained in November 2002 regarding a methamphetamine cooking operation.  The information, received by the undersheriff from a concerned citizen, contained details on a residence in Mille Lacs County where methamphetamine was being manufactured.  The concerned citizen gave a detailed description of the named methamphetamine cook, and “buy” information, including a detailed description of the property and adjacent buildings where the methamphetamine production was to have taken place.  This information was later corroborated by a second concerned citizen.

According to the search-warrant application, nothing further occurred until June 14, 2004, when an investigator received information from a third concerned citizen who would only speak to law enforcement on the strict condition of anonymity out of fear for his or her own and his or her family’s safety.  The concerned citizen had a very detailed and intimate knowledge of the manufacturing of methamphetamine by individuals residing at the property.  In addition, the concerned citizen named the co-defendant Alroy Heddan, and respondent as the residents of the property.  The residency information was verified by law enforcement through property records and the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The concerned citizen stated that the information regarding the cooking operation had been obtained within the past 30 days.

The affidavit in support of the search-warrant application reflects a time-frame of approximately 18 months with information from several different informants regarding respondent’s methamphetamine-manufacturing operation.  While the information from the first two concerned citizens was received in 2002, the investigator did receive “fresh” information from a third concerned citizen which had been obtained within 30 days prior to the application for the search warrant.  Because the affidavit shows that respondent’s methamphetamine-manufacturing operation was ongoing criminal activity, and the investigator received “fresh” information that corroborated the first two concerned citizens’ information within one month prior to requesting the search warrant, the search warrant was not lacking in probable cause due to staleness.

b.         Reliability of Information

            Appellant argues that the district court erred by ruling that under the totality of the circumstances, inaccurate information from the investigator, along with unreliable information from the informants, rendered the warrants constitutionally defective. 

            The Minnesota Supreme Court has acknowledged that while “[r]easonable minds frequently may differ on the question of whether a particular affidavit establishes probable cause[,]” reviewing courts must be “mindful that warrant affidavits are typically drafted by non-lawyers in the midst and haste of a criminal investigation.”  Harris, 589 N.W.2d at 791.  Therefore, warrant applications are not held to the same strict standards as pleadings.  Id.  Further, an “explicit and detailed description of the alleged wrongdoing, along with a statement that the event was observed first-hand, entitles [the] tip to greater weight than might otherwise be the case.”  Hanson v. State, 344 N.W.2d 420, 424 (Minn. App. 1984). 

            Here, the concerned citizens’ information was highly detailed.  One of the concerned citizens had actually purchased drugs from respondent, and one or more of the concerned citizens described respondent’s property and respondent’s manufacturing process in intricate detail including comprehensive details regarding the process, ingredients in respondent’s possession, and the names of individuals involved in the manufacturing and distribution processes.  The explicit and detailed information provided by the concerned citizens makes them credible sources.  Further, information provided by the concerned citizens was corroborated by the investigator.

            “An informant’s reliability may be established by sufficient police corroboration of the information supplied, and corroboration of even minor details can lend credence to the informant’s information where the police know the identity of the informant.”  State v. Ward, 580 N.W.2d 67, 71 (Minn. App. 1998).  The basis of the informant’s knowledge and the police corroboration of details in his report were both established in this case.  See State v. McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d 700, 704 (Minn. 1990) (holding corroboration need not be of a “key detail”); Wiley, 366 N.W.2d at 269 (preferred basis of informant’s knowledge is recent personal observation of incriminating conduct).  The concerned citizens’ information was corroborated by the investigator in several respects: (1) he verified that respondent resided on the property, (2) he obtained a physical description of respondent independent from that of the informants’ description, and (3) he possessed personal knowledge of the property from previous encounters with respondent.  As in Wiley, while the investigator’s corroboration was not of key details, the corroboration did lend credence to the concerned citizens’ tips.  See Wiley, 366 N.W.2d at 269 (providing that while corroboration of an informant’s statement that a woman named Clare resided at a particular address and parked a 1973 Mercedes in front of that address was not corroboration of a key detail, it did lend credence to the informant’s tip).

            Because this information, when viewed in its totality, supports the issuing judge’s determination that probable cause existed to issue the search warrant, the district court erred in granting respondent’s motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to the search warrant and erred in dismissing the charges against respondent for lack of probable cause. 

          Reversed and remanded.