This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,


Kendall Lasean Blunt,


Filed April 11, 2006

Reversed and remanded

Wright, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 04083000



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


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55487 (for appellant)


Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN  55401 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Worke, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court’s decision to suppress marijuana and cocaine seized during a warrantless entry and search of a hotel room, arguing that the district court erred because respondent lacked standing to challenge the police inspection of the hotel-registration records and because plain-view and exigent- circumstances exceptions justified the warrantless entry and seizure.  We reverse and remand.



Minnesota law requires each hotel to maintain information on all registered hotel guests, including the guest’s home address and automobile license and registration data.  Minn. Stat. § 327.10 (2004).  Hotel-registration records must be made available for inspection by law enforcement officers on request.  Minn. Stat. § 327.12 (2004).  As a member of the Plymouth Police Department’s hotel task force, Officer Steven Thomas visits area hotels and reviews hotel-registration records provided by the desk clerk.  When he is advised of suspicious activity by hotel staff or when the hotel guest lists a local address, Officer Thomas uses the information obtained from the hotel-registration records to perform a warrant check.  

At approximately 1:15 a.m. on December 18, 2004, Officer Thomas arrived at the Red Roof Inn in Plymouth.  Officer Ryan Hazen joined him shortly thereafter.  Officer Thomas obtained information from guest Melanie Berg’s hotel-registration form and performed a warrant check, which disclosed an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for her arrest. 

The officers proceeded to Berg’s hotel room, which was on the first floor, adjacent to the parking lot.  Officer Hazen stood beside the door and peered through a gap in the window curtains.  Officer Thomas stood in front of the door and knocked.  After a brief delay, Officer Hazen observed a male approach the window.  Officer Thomas announced that they were the police.  Appellant Kendall Blunt opened the door.

Blunt was the only person that the officers saw inside the room.  From his position outside the hotel room, Officer Thomas saw a white powdery substance and a straw on a table approximately 10 to 15 feet inside the room.  The officers entered the room and prevented Blunt from sweeping the substance from the table onto the floor.  After the police had entered the hotel room, Blunt turned toward a sock on the floor.  Based on its appearance, the officers believed the sock may contain a weapon.  The officers then restrained and handcuffed Blunt.          

Officer Thomas retrieved the sock, which contained a scale, 20 grams of crack cocaine, 42.8 grams of powder cocaine, and 188.7 grams of marijuana.  He then performed a protective search of the hotel room and arrested Blunt.  Berg arrived at the room a few minutes later.  Officer Thomas arrested her on the outstanding warrant.

Blunt was charged with first-degree controlled-substance possession, a violation of Minn. Stat § 152.021, subd. 2(1) (2004), and fifth-degree controlled-substance possession, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (2004).  Blunt moved to suppress the evidence seized from the hotel room.  Blunt made three arguments that are relevant to this appeal.  Blunt maintained that, as an overnight guest in Berg’s hotel room, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in both the hotel-registration records and the hotel room.  The warrantless inspection of the hotel-registration form, he argued, violated article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution.  And he argued that exigent circumstances did not exist to justify the warrantless search of the hotel room. 

The district court granted the motion to suppress and concluded that the selective warrant check based on hotel-registration records was an arbitrary enforcement of Minn. Stat. § 327.12, in violation of article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution.  The district court concluded that, because the police arrived at the hotel room door as a result of an unconstitutional exercise of discretion, any evidence seized after this constitutional violation must be suppressed.

After granting the state’s motion to reconsider, the district court reaffirmed its conclusion that Blunt had standing to challenge the seizure of evidence because he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel room.  This appeal followed.



When the state appeals a pretrial suppression order, “the state must ‘clearly and unequivocally’ show both that the trial court’s order will have a ‘critical impact’ on the state’s ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and that the order constituted error.”  State v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. 1998) (quoting State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 630 (Minn. 1995)).  Thus, as an initial matter, we must determine whether the district court’s order suppressing evidence will have a critical impact on the state’s case against Blunt.  Appellate review of the decision to suppress evidence is precluded if the decision does not have a critical impact on the state’s case.  Id.  When the likelihood of a successful prosecution is significantly reduced by the unavailability of the suppressed evidence, the critical-impact standard is met.  State v. Kim, 398 N.W.2d 544, 551 (Minn. 1987).

            The state maintains, and Blunt concedes, that without the evidence seized during the search of the hotel room, there is no likelihood of a successful prosecution.  We agree.  Because the controlled-substance charges arise from the marijuana and cocaine seized during the search and no other evidentiary basis for the charges exists,   suppression of this evidence will eliminate the state’s ability to prosecute Blunt on these charges.  Thus, the suppression of the evidence seized from the hotel room has a critical impact on the ability of the state to prosecute this case successfully. 

When reviewing a pretrial order on a motion to suppress evidence, we independently review the facts and determine as a matter of law whether the district court erred in suppressing the evidence.  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999).  The district court’s findings of fact will not be disturbed unless they are clearly erroneous.  State v. Dickerson, 481 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 1992), aff’d, Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993).

            Article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution guarantees individuals protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers, and effects.  The state contends that the district court erred in concluding that Blunt has standing to challenge the examination of Berg’s hotel registration.  Without standing, the state argues, Blunt cannot challenge the police officers’ arrival at the door of the hotel room.  For the purpose of challenging the search of the hotel-registration form, the requirements for standing under article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution are co-extensive.  State v. Carter, 596 N.W.2d 654, 658 (Minn. 1999).  A defendant seeking the suppression of evidence may not assert a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of a third party.  State v. Reynolds, 578 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Minn. App. 1998).  Rather, the violation alleged must be founded on the defendant’s own rights.  Id.  Standing to object to a search or seizure “exists only if the person protesting the search has a justifiable or reasonable expectation of privacy in the area searched or the item seized.”  State v. Sorenson, 441 N.W.2d 455, 457 (Minn. 1989).  Thus, Blunt must establish that he had a legitimate privacy interest that was violated by the police officers’ investigation of the hotel-registration records.  

Blunt contends that, as an overnight guest, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in Berg’s hotel room, and therefore he had a privacy interest in the hotel-room registration.  Relying on State v. Sletten, 664 N.W. 2d 870 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Sept. 24, 2003), the district court concluded that Blunt had standing to challenge the hotel-registration search.  In Sletten, we held that an unregistered hotel guest may be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of their hotel room.  Id. at 876.  But before a hotel guest can assert that right, the hotel guest “must first show a legitimate privacy interest.”[1] Id.  Our analysis does not depend on Blunt’s reason for being in the hotel room, however, because a privacy interest in the hotel-registration records is distinct from any privacy interest in the hotel room that Blunt may hold.    

The police conducted an examination of Berg’s hotel-registration information as authorized by Minn. Stat. § 327.12 (2004).  The privacy interest in the information, if any, belongs to Berg,[2] not Blunt.  Although Berg may be able to assert a constitutional violation of her legitimate privacy interest in the hotel-registration records, Blunt cannot.  Accordingly, Blunt lacks standing to challenge a statutorily authorized review of Berg’s hotel-registration form.  Because Blunt lacks standing to challenge the hotel-records investigation, this investigation cannot supply the basis for suppressing evidence seized during the search of the hotel room. 

            We next consider whether the warrantless search of the hotel room provides an independent basis to suppress the seized evidence.  Warrantless searches and seizures are per se unreasonable, subject to a limited number of established exceptions.  State v. Miranda, 622 N.W.2d 353, 357 (Minn. App. 2001).  A warrantless seizure of an item in plain view is constitutionally permissible under limited circumstances.  State v. Zimmer, 642 N.W.2d 753, 755-56 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. June 26, 2002).  An officer can seize an item in plain view if (1) the officer was lawfully in a position from which the officer observed the object; (2) the incriminating character of the object was immediately apparent; and (3) the officer possessed a lawful right of access to the object.  Id.  A search conducted because of exigent circumstances is another recognized exception to the warrant requirement.  Miranda, 622 N.W.2d at 357.  The exigent-circumstances exception can be triggered by the presence of a single factor or by the totality of the circumstances.  State v. Gray, 456 N.W.2d 251, 256 (Minn. 1990).  Single factors include the imminent destruction or removal of evidence and the protection of human life.  Id. 

The state contends that, when Blunt opened the door, the officers observed cocaine in plain view.  The officers’ position outside the hotel room door was a lawful vantage point from which they could observe the inside of the hotel room.  Officer Thomas testified that, while talking to Blunt from outside the hotel-room door, he could see a white powdery substance and a straw on a table approximately 10 to 15 feet away.  Based on his training and experience, Officer Thomas believed that the substance was cocaine or methamphetamine.  Thus, the evidence establishes that the powder’s incriminating character was immediately apparent to the officer.

            The officers both testified that at one point it appeared that Blunt was about to wipe the powder off the table into the carpet.  Concerned that Blunt would attempt to destroy the evidence on the table, the officers restrained Blunt to prevent him from doing so.  In the course of restraining Blunt, the officers noticed Blunt turning his attention toward the sock, which appeared to be stuffed with something.  Based on its appearance, the officers feared that the sock contained a weapon.  The sock was then seized by the officers.

            The record therefore establishes that, based on the plain-view doctrine, the officers’ entry into the hotel room and seizure of the cocaine on the table were constitutionally permissible.  Exigent circumstances, based on the imminent destruction of evidence as well as the protection of human life, also existed and supplied a basis for the warrantless seizure of the cocaine on the table and the controlled substances in the sock. 

Accordingly, the warrantless entry and seizure of the cocaine and marijuana were constitutionally permissible.

Reversed and remanded. 

[1] The district court did not make findings as to the nature of Blunt’s status in the hotel room.  As such, Blunt did not establish whether he was a social guest or a business guest, the determination of which may affect Blunt’s privacy interest in the room.  See, e.g., Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83, 91, 119 S. Ct. 469, 474 (1998) (holding that guest conducting commercial transaction on the premises for short period of time without prior connection to residence lacked standing to challenge search). We may assume, under Sletten, that Blunt holds a legitimate privacy interest in the hotel room because he was in possession of the room and no evidence was presented to demonstrate that he was anything other than Berg’s social guest. 

[2] When registering for the hotel room, Berg provided her name, address, driver’s license number, and license plate number.  Blunt did not prepare the hotel-registration form, and no information pertaining to Blunt appears anywhere on the form.