This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







Joel Royce, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed August 15, 2006


Willis, Judge

Concurring specially, Randall, Judge


Pine County District Court

File No. KX-03-350



John Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Gunnar B. Johnson, Assistant Attorneys General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1800, St. Paul, MN  55101; and


John Carlson, Pine County Attorney, 315 Main Street South, Pine City, MN  55063-1693 (for respondent)

            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


This is an appeal from an order denying relief on a postconviction petition that challenged appellant’s 2003 conviction of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime.  Appellant argues that (1) the officer who stopped appellant’s car for speeding did not have a basis for detaining him in the back seat of the police car; (2) appellant’s identity, which was determined during the ten-minute detention in the police car, and the evidence obtained as a result of learning his identity, should have been suppressed; and (3) the inevitable-discovery doctrine does not apply.  We affirm.


            On April 1, 2003, appellant Joel Royce was stopped for speeding by State Trooper Mark Hopkins.  When Trooper Hopkins approached the vehicle and spoke with Royce, Trooper Hopkins noticed that Royce’s hands were shaking.  When Trooper Hopkins asked Royce for his driver’s license, Royce told him that he had a valid license but did not have it with him.  Trooper Hopkins then asked Royce to step out of his vehicle and escorted Royce to the rear of the vehicle, where he patted him down.  During the patdown search, Trooper Hopkins felt a soft lump in the right-hand pocket of Royce’s pants and asked if it was marijuana.   Royce said, “Yes.”

            Trooper Hopkins then placed Royce in the back seat of the police car and questioned him.  When asked about his identity, Royce identified himself as Edward John Neumann and gave his date of birth as September 30, 1969.  Trooper Hawkins called in the information and learned that Edward John Neumann had a valid driver’s license in Wisconsin.  But Royce did not match the physical description on record for Neumann.  Royce weighed approximately 170 pounds, while Neumann’s weight was listed as 210 pounds.  Neumann had brown eyes, while Royce’s appeared to be blue.  And Royce said that he was 34 years old, while Neumann would have been 33.  Trooper Hopkins told Royce that he did not believe that Royce was being honest and that he would not be released from custody until Trooper Hopkins believed that he had a valid identification.  Royce then revealed his identity. 

            Trooper Hopkins called in Royce’s name to dispatch and learned there were three felony warrants outstanding for his arrest.  Based on this information, Trooper Hopkins searched Royce’s vehicle and found a glass pipe containing a white residue and a wooden “dug-out” commonly used to store marijuana.  The white substance in the glass pipe was later determined to be cocaine. 

Royce was charged with controlled-substance crime in the fifth-degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2 (2002); giving a peace officer a false name, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.506, subd. 2 (2002); and possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.027, subd. 3 (2002).  Royce stipulated to the state’s case and was tried by the district court under the procedure described in State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980).  The district court found that Trooper Hopkins’s patdown search violated Royce’s Fourth Amendment rights under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968), suppressed the use of marijuana as evidence against Royce, and dismissed the marijuana charge. The court found Royce guilty of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and sentenced him to 141 days, with credit for time served, and ordered payment of $345 in fines and court fees. 

After the Minnesota Supreme Court decided State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353 (Minn. 2004), Royce petitioned for postconviction relief, arguing that his detention in Trooper Hopkins’s police car violated his rights under the Minnesota Constitution and alleging the improper discovery of his identity and, therefore, improper discovery of the outstanding felony arrest warrants, and the cocaine and drug paraphernalia.  The postconviction court concluded that it was not necessary to determine whether Royce’s identification should be suppressed, considered the issue as if Royce had remained silent, and decided that the drug evidence would inevitably have been discovered.  The postconviction court denied Royce’s petition, and this appeal followed.


            Appellate courts “review a postconviction court’s findings to determine whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record.”  Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001).  “The decisions of a postconviction court will not be disturbed unless the court abused its discretion.”  Id.  But a postconviction court’s legal determinations are reviewed de novo.  Berkow v. State, 573 N.W.2d 91, 95 (Minn. App. 1997), aff’d, 583 N.W.2d 562 (Minn. 1998).

Relying on State v. Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d 353 (Minn. 2004), Royce argues that his detention in the back seat of the police car was unlawful and that evidence of his identity obtained during that detention and evidence discovered as a result of learning his identity should have been suppressed.  In Askerooth, the defendant was stopped for failing to stop at a stop sign and placed in a police car, where he hid a container of methamphetamine under the back seat.  681 N.W.2d at 357-58.  After releasing the defendant, the police searched the vehicle and discovered the drugs.  Id.  Based on this evidence, the defendant was convicted of possessing a controlled substance.  Id. at 359. 

In finding that Askerooth’s confinement in the police car was unlawful and suppressing the drug evidence against him, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that a “reasonable articulable suspicion of some additional crime or danger” is required to justify the detention of a suspect in an officer’s vehicle.  Id. at 370-71.  The supreme court determined that the justification for detaining a suspect in a police car was comparable to the justification for a Terry stop.  Id. at 363.  The state’s intrusion on the personal liberties of a suspect must “satisfy an objective test:  ‘would the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure . . . warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate.’”  Id. at 364 (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968) (quotation omitted)).

            Here, Trooper Hopkins noted Royce’s nervousness, the fact that it was nighttime, and the fact that he was working alone as reasons to justify placing Royce in the back of the police car.  In Askerooth, the supreme court stated that “greater deference might be given to precautions taken by [the officer] because he was working alone if he had articulated a reasonable suspicion that [the suspect] was armed or presented an imminent danger, but [the officer] did not.”  Id. at 369 (emphasis added).  The circumstances here are similar to those in Askerooth.  Trooper Hopkins stopped Royce for a traffic violation while working at night without a partner and articulated no reasonable suspicion that Royce was armed or presented an imminent danger.  The discovery of marijuana in Royce’s pants pocket might have satisfied the Askerooth requirement that there be reasonable articulable suspicion of some additional crime to justify placing Royce in the police car.  But the district court suppressed that evidence, and its suppression is not an issue on appeal.  Placing Royce in the police car was, therefore, an unwarranted intrusion on Royce’s personal liberties. 

            But it does not follow that evidence discovered after Royce’s unreasonable confinement should be automatically suppressed.  See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 223, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2324 (1983) (noting that “whether the exclusionary rule’s remedy is appropriate in a particular context has long been regarded as an issue separate from the question whether the Fourth Amendment rights of the party seeking to invoke the rule were violated by police conduct”); Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d at 370 (noting that even though Askerooth was unreasonably confined, the court still needed to decide whether to suppress the evidence). 

            Here, the postconviction court concluded, and the state argues on appeal, that with or without knowledge of Royce’s identity, law enforcement would have arrested him and a search incident to that arrest would inevitably have led to discovery of the drug evidence in Royce’s vehicle.  Royce argues that the drug evidence should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule and that the inevitable-discovery doctrine is inapplicable. 

            Under the exclusionary rule, “evidence discovered by exploiting previous illegal conduct is inadmissible.”  State v. Olson, 634 N.W.2d 224, 229 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Dec. 11, 2001).  The United States Supreme Court recently addressed the causation element of the exclusionary rule in Hudson v. Michigan, 126 S. Ct. 2159 (2006).  In that case, police executed a valid search warrant on Hudson’s home but, after announcing their presence, waited only “three to five seconds” before opening the door.  Hudson, 126 S. Ct. at 2162.  Hudson moved to suppress the evidence obtained in the search, arguing that the “premature” entry violated his Fourth Amendment rights.  Id. 

            The Supreme Court first noted that application of the exclusionary rule involves a question of remedy and stated that it has “rejected indiscriminate application of the rule and ha[s] held it to be applicable only where its remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served – that is, where its deterrence benefits outweigh its substantial social costs.”  Id. at 2163 (citations, quotations, and alterations omitted).  Addressing causation, the Supreme Court stated that

exclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a “but-for” cause of obtaining evidence.  Our cases show that but-for causality is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for suppression.  In this case, of course, the constitutional violation of an illegal manner of entry was not a but-for cause of obtaining the evidence. . . .  But even if the illegal entry here could be characterized as a but-for cause of discovering what was inside, we have “never held that evidence is ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ simply because ‘it would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police.’”  Rather, but-for cause . . . can be too attenuated to justify exclusion.


Id. at 2164 (quoting Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 815, 104 S. Ct. 3380, 3391 (1984)) (other citations omitted). 

            “Attenuation can occur . . . when the causal connection is remote” or when the “interest protected by the constitutional guarantee that has been violated would not be served by suppression of the evidence obtained.”  Id.  Because the interest violated in Hudson “ha[d] nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence,” the Supreme Court found the exclusionary rule to be inapplicable.  Id. at 2165.  As Justice Kennedy stated in concurrence, “[T]he relevant evidence was discovered not because of a failure to knock-and-announce, but because of a subsequent search pursuant to a lawful warrant.  The Court . . . is correct to hold that suppression was not required.”  Id. at 2171 (Kennedy, J., concurring).

            Here, the drug evidence was discovered not as the result of the unreasonable confinement of Royce in the police car but as the result of learning Royce’s identity.  The interest to be protected here is Royce’s right to be “free from arbitrary interference by law officers.”  See Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d at 365 (quotation omitted).  This interest, however, is not protected by application of the exclusionary rule because Royce’s confinement–the unconstitutional conduct in this case–did not lead to the discovery of the drug evidence.  Instead, learning his identity did, and Royce’s identity was not learned because Trooper Hopkins placed him in the police car.  Identifying Royce was a process that began when he told Trooper Hopkins that he did not have his driver’s license with him and ended when he finally identified himself.  There is no but-for causation here, and the exclusionary rule is inapplicable.  Therefore, the drug evidence was properly admitted by the district court.

            This case is distinguishable from Askerooth.  In concluding that the drug evidence there must be suppressed, the Minnesota Supreme Court noted that “[t]here appears to be no feasible way the methamphetamine would have been discovered but for the illegal seizure.”  Askerooth, 681 N.W.2d at 370 (emphasis added).  The unconstitutional confinement of Askerooth led directly to the discovery of the methamphetamine.  Here, as we have discussed, there was no causal connection between Royce’s confinement and the discovery of the drug evidence.

            Because the exclusionary rule does not apply, we do not address the parties’ arguments regarding application of the inevitable-discovery doctrine.  See State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 105 (Minn. 1999) (noting that the inevitable-discovery doctrine is an exception to the exclusionary rule).  And because the search of Royce’s vehicle was a valid search incident to an arrest, we do not reach Royce’s argument regarding the absence of evidence of the highway patrol’s inventory-search policy. 

            The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief to Royce on his petition.



Randall, Judge (concurring specially)

            I concur in the result.