This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Joel Royce, petitioner,
Concurring specially, Randall, Judge
Pine County District Court
File No. KX-03-350
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant Public
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,
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.
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
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 (
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.
D E C I S I O N
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 (
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.
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.
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.
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.”
But it does not follow that evidence
discovered after Royce’s unreasonable confinement should be automatically
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 (
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
the exclusionary rule does not apply, we do not address the parties’ arguments
regarding application of the inevitable-discovery doctrine.
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.