This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





Malaciah Tramble,



Filed August 8, 2006


Willis, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K1-05-60


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mitchell L. Rothman, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN  55102-1657 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Marie Wolf, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant challenges his conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, arguing that because the search-warrant application did not establish probable cause, the district court erred by failing to suppress the handgun found in his car.  We conclude that the search-warrant application provided the district court with a substantial basis for determining that there was a fair probability that a firearm or evidence of a firearm would be found in appellant’s automobile, and we affirm.


On September 28, 2004, St. Paul Police Officer Anthony Spencer attempted to stop a driver, later identified as appellant Malaciah Tramble, whom the officer observed driving a car at a “very high rate of speed.”  Officer Spencer activated his squad car’s emergency lights and motioned for Tramble to pull over.  Tramble did not stop but continued to accelerate and made a sharp turn onto another street.  Officer Spencer continued to follow Tramble, who then stopped “very suddenly” in the traffic lane, opened the driver’s door, and ran from his vehicle.  Officer Spencer tried to “cut [Tramble] off” in his squad car and observed Tramble run up a driveway and into the backyard of a home.  Officer Spencer returned to Tramble’s vehicle after assisting squads arrived in the area.  Officer Spencer testified that a neighborhood resident approached him at the vehicle and said that a man had run in the back door of the resident’s house.  Tramble was apprehended by police officers who found him hiding in that house’s basement. 

            After returning to Tramble’s car, Officer Spencer and another police officer did a cursory search of the vehicle’s interior and found papers in the glove box bearing Tramble’s name.  Tramble’s car was towed to the police impound lot. 

            After learning of Tramble’s arrest, on September 29, 2004, St. Paul Police Sergeant Jane Laurence applied for and received a warrant to search Tramble’s car.  Sergeant Laurence had been conducting an investigation involving Tramble, and she had issued a “probable cause pick-up and hold” for him only a few days earlier. 

The search-warrant application was based on the September 28, 2004 incident and on the following information:  (1) On September 23, 2004, Tramble’s wife’s cousin reported to police that Tramble had confronted him at his garage and shot him in the leg; (2) police responded to the emergency call but could not find Tramble; they took photographs of nine bullet holes in the garage and recovered four casings from a handgun in a nearby alley; (3) Tramble appeared in St. Paul Police Department records as the suspect in six separate violent crimes since June 26, 2004, and several of those incidents involved firearms; (4) after Tramble’s car was towed on September 28, 2004, Sergeant P. Paulos received information “from a person known to him that there is a compartment behind the dashboard of the car where Tramble keeps his gun”[1]; and (5) Sergeant Laurence stated that she “knows from training and experience that violent offenders often go to great lengths to modify vehicles so that their firearms are accessible, but concealed.” 

Upon searching Tramble’s car, Sergeant Laurence recovered a .25-caliber handgun and a box of ammunition.  Tramble stipulated that he is ineligible to possess a firearm. 

In January 2005, the state charged Tramble with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2004); and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 3 (2004).  The district court denied Tramble’s motion to suppress the gun, and a jury found Tramble guilty of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person.[2]  The district court sentenced Tramble to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for 60 months.  This appeal follows.


            “A search warrant may be issued only upon a finding of probable cause by a neutral and detached magistrate.”  State v. Harris, 589 N.W.2d 782, 787 (Minn. 1999).  An appellate court affords great deference to a district court’s probable-cause determination made in connection with the issuance of a search warrant.  State v. Rochefort, 631 N.W.2d 802, 804 (Minn. 2001).  When reviewing a district court’s decision to issue a warrant, an appellate court considers only “whether the issuing judge had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.”  Id.  An appellate court does not review isolated components of the application for a search warrant but reviews the application as a whole.  Harris, 589 N.W.2d at 788.

            To determine whether probable cause to search exists, the issuing judge applies a totality-of-the-circumstances test and makes a practical, commonsense decision whether, “‘given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him, 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.’”  Id. (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2332 (1983)).  A district court should consider the following factors before determining whether there is probable cause to search: (1) the type of crime involved, (2) the nature of the items sought, (3) the extent of the suspect’s opportunity for concealment, and (4) “the normal inferences” regarding where the suspect would likely keep such items.  Id. 

            Tramble argues that the handgun found in the search of his car should have been suppressed because the search-warrant application “relied only on an uncorroborated tip from an unidentified informant.”  When a probable-cause determination is based on an informant’s tip, the informant’s veracity and the basis of his or her knowledge are considerations under the totality-of-the-circumstances test.  State v. Ward, 580 N.W.2d 67, 71 (Minn. App. 1998). Here, the only information in the application about the informant was that “Sgt. P. Paulos received information from a person known to him.”  This statement is insufficient to establish the reliability of the informant, and, alone, the statement would not support a probable-cause determination.  See Ward, 580 N.W.2d at 73 (concluding that “vague and uncertain information does not supply sufficient underlying facts” to allow the district court to determine the reliability of the informant (quotation omitted)).  The state acknowledges that the application did not “characterize the source as a concerned citizen or first-time citizen informant and was silent regarding the informant’s previous reliability.”  But the state asserts that the application would have established probable cause even if the sentence describing the information given to Sergeant Paulos had been omitted.  We agree.

            “When the request of the court is for the issuance of a warrant to search a particular location, there must be specific facts to establish a direct connection between the alleged criminal activity and the site to be searched.”  State v. Souto, 578 N.W.2d 744, 749 (Minn. 1998).  And the evidence must justify a finding of probable cause at the time that the warrant is issued.  State v. Jannetta, 355 N.W.2d 189, 193 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Jan. 14, 1985). 

Here, the application for the search warrant sought to recover firearms, ammunition, and other “indicia of ownership [of firearms.]”  The application related, in detail, an incident occurring six days earlier, after which a victim identified Tramble as the person who shot him.  The application also stated that Tramble was a suspect in six other crimes involving firearms committed since June 2004.  A district court could reasonably infer that a person recently involved in a number of violent offenses involving firearms would keep a firearm on his person or in his vehicle.  The application also described the September 28, 2004 incident in which Tramble fled from the police.  The Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that flight is indicative of consciousness of guilt.  Harris, 589 N.W.2d at 790.  The state argues that because “nothing of importance was found on [Tramble] when he was arrested . . . his flight helps establish probable cause to believe that a gun would be found in the vehicle.”  The application also described Sergeant Laurence’s knowledge “from training and experience that violent offenders often go to great lengths to modify vehicles so that their firearms are accessible, but concealed.”  A district court may properly consider a police affiant’s training and experience in making a probable-cause determination.  State v. Brennan, 674 N.W.2d 200, 204 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 2004).  Our consideration of these factors leads us to conclude that even without the information regarding the informant’s tip, the search-warrant application provided the district court with a substantial basis for concluding that there was a fair probability that, at that time, a firearm or evidence of a firearm would be found in Tramble’s car.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Sergeant Paulos testified that after Tramble’s car was towed, Paulos received information from a passerby that the car had a gun in the center console.  This discrepancy between the application and Sergeant Paulos’s testimony is not an issue in this appeal. 

[2] The state dismissed the fleeing count before the case was submitted to the jury.