This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ulysses Y. Sayles, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed November 21, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00873928
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Steven P. Russett, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue S.E., Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Donna J. Wolfson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from a denial of postconviction relief, appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon and that the district court committed evidentiary and other errors. Because the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s conviction and the district court properly applied the law, we affirm.
Appellant Ulysses S. Sayles was driving his car in Minneapolis with revoked license plates. Police officers stopped him, learned also that his car was not insured, cited him for the traffic violations, and told him that his car would be impounded.
While Sayles waited for a taxi, the officers did an inventory search of the car. In the trunk, they found a large plastic bag containing 71 smaller bags of marijuana. They then arrested Sayles for possession of a controlled substance, although he denied knowing about the marijuana.
The officers placed Sayles in the squad car, continued the inventory search, and found a loaded handgun concealed under carpeting in the trunk. The officers told Sayles that he was also being arrested for possession of a loaded handgun. He volunteered that he did in fact know about the marijuana but not about the gun.
Without first giving a Miranda warning, one of the officers asked Sayles whether he had a permit for the gun, whether he had been convicted of domestic assault, and whether he was a convicted felon. Sayles replied that he had no gun permit and had not been convicted of domestic assault, but had been in an Illinois prison for a narcotics offense.
At the jail intake center, a police sergeant interrogated Sayles, telling him at the outset that he had reviewed the police reports and wanted to hear Sayles’ “side of the story.” Sayles waived his Miranda rights and admitted that he possessed the marijuana in his car with the intent to sell it, that he had bought the handgun on the street, and that he had been convicted eight or nine years previously of the felony of narcotics possession.
Sayles gave the police two different dates of birth. When the sergeant did a criminal-history search, he found three different birthdates for Sayles and that fingerprint-comparison records showed that Sayles also used the alias “Ulysses Gales.” The sergeant obtained records of two criminal convictions from Illinois. One was a felony for unlawful use of a firearm, naming Ulysses Sayles as the felon. The other referred to Ulysses Gales and was for narcotics possession.
The state charged Sayles with fifth-degree controlled substance crime and ineligible possession of a firearm. Sayles pleaded not guilty and, at an omnibus hearing, moved to suppress the marijuana, the handgun, and his statements to the police. He also challenged the admissibility of the criminal-history records on the ground that there was no showing that Ulysses Sayles and Ulysses Gales are the same person.
The district court denied the motion to suppress the marijuana and the handgun; granted the motion to suppress Sayles’ statements while in the squad car; denied the motion to suppress the rest of his statements; and ruled that the criminal-history records from a national database would not be admissible at trial.
After these rulings, Sayles waived his right to a jury trial and submitted the matter to the court on a stipulated record which included conviction and disposition records from Illinois.
Upon the stipulated record, the court found Sayles guilty as charged and sentenced him. Two and one-half years later, Sayles petitioned for postconviction relief. The court denied the petition and Sayles brought this appeal, contending the evidence was insufficient to prove a prior crime that would support a conviction of ineligibility to possess a firearm; the court relied on evidence outside the stipulated record in finding him guilty; his car was not lawfully impounded and searched and the court erred in not suppressing the evidence found in the car; and his prior statements made without a Miranda warning precluded his later statements from being voluntary and the court erred by not suppressing all statements.
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 (Minn. 2001) (citation omitted). We “afford great deference to a district court’s findings of fact and will not reverse the findings unless they are clearly erroneous.” Id.
The postconviction court determined that the facts submitted to the trial court supported the finding of guilty on both charges; that the trial court was not shown to have relied on inadmissible evidence; and that the trial court properly admitted the marijuana, the handgun, and the statements Sayles made to the police interrogator at the intake center. To the extent that the postconviction court decided questions of law, we review those decisions de novo. Butala v. State, 664 N.W.2d 333, 338 (Minn. 2003).
Impoundment and Search of Car
Sayles challenges the propriety of both the impoundment and the ensuing search of his car.
He appears to concede that impoundment of a motor vehicle is permissible if impoundment is necessary to prevent obstruction of traffic or to safeguard public safety. That concession comports with the law. South Dakota. v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 368, 96 S. Ct. 3092, 3097 (1976). But Sayles contends that, after the stop, his car was lawfully parked and, more particularly, posed no traffic hazard or safety risk. Additionally, he relies on Minn. Stat. § 169.041, subd. 3 (2000), that provides for a four-hour waiting period during which “a towing authority may not tow, or allow or require the towing of, a motor vehicle from public property for a parking or traffic violation . . . .” There are several exceptions, but Sayles urges that none applies. He is incorrect. A motor vehicle may be towed if “the driver . . . is taken into custody and the vehicle is impounded for safekeeping.” Minn. Stat. § 169.041, subd. 4(12) (2000). “Impoundment” and “towing” are different acts. To “impound” means to “seize and retain in legal custody.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 908 (3d ed. 1992). To “tow” means to “draw or pull behind by a chain or line.” Id. at 1894. The exception in subdivision 4(12) recognizes this distinction because it allows the towing of an impounded vehicle when the driver has been taken into custody For purposes of this exception to the four-hour waiting period, impoundment must precede the act of towing.
Under the facts of this case, it is clear that the officers “impounded” the car when they learned that it was uninsured and had no valid license plates, and, therefore, could not legally be driven. Arguably, towing the car for those violations without waiting four hours would have contravened section 169.041, subd. 3. However, after impounding the car but before having it towed away, the officers took Sayles into custody This fact could reasonably lead both Sayles and the police to be concerned for the car’s safekeeping because Sayles’ freedom of contact with the outside world would be significantly curtailed as would his ability to protect his car. Because the conduct of the police satisfied an exception to the four-hour rule, there was no violation of section 169.041, subd. 4.
Furthermore, even if the police violated the four-hour rule, the sole remedy for such a violation is provided in subdivision 7, which allows the driver or owner to recover money damages from the towing authority. Sayles has failed to show that this is not the exclusive remedy for a violation of the four-hour rule or that the suppression of evidence is a proper remedy for such a violation.
We hold that impoundment of the car was necessary for the car’s safekeeping.
The police may conduct a proper inventory search of a lawfully impounded motor vehicle. State v. Ture, 632 N.W.2d 621, 628 (Minn. 2001). Sayles concedes this proposition. To be a proper inventory search, the police must follow standard procedures and the purpose of the search must be, at least in part, to inventory personal property inside the car and not solely to investigate. Id. at 629.
Sayles contends that there was no evidence of a departmental policy on inventory searches or that the actual search followed standard procedures.
The officer who conducted the search of Sayles’ car testified that he had been trained in conducting a proper inventory search and that even though he had not recently read the police department’s inventory search policy and could not recall its exact language, he believed it required him to search the car and all containers within the car. He also testified that the purpose of the search was to secure and catalog valuables found in the car. He conducted the search accordingly.
“[B]oth the existence of standard inventory procedures, as well as compliance with those procedures, may be established through testimony and does not require the admission of the policy itself into evidence.” Id. at 628. The testimony of the officer who did the search revealed, either expressly or by necessary inference, that the police department had an inventory-search policy; that he had been trained to search in accordance with that policy; that the purpose of the search was to identify and protect valuables in the car; that his search was done for that purpose; and that to carry out the policy, he needed to look into the interior of the car and into all containers in the car.
We hold that the inventory search was proper and that the fruits of that search were properly admitted into evidence as part of the stipulated record.
While in the squad car, Sayles admitted that he had a prior felony conviction. Because this admission was in response to custodial interrogation that was conducted without a Miranda warning, the court properly suppressed the admission.
In the intake center, after waiving his Miranda rights, Sayles admitted that he had been convicted eight or nine years previously of a felony for narcotics possession. The court refused to suppress this admission and it became part of the evidence the court considered at trial. Sayles contends that, considering the earlier statement obtained without a Miranda warning, his later Miranda waiver was ineffective and his statement involuntary. He emphasizes that, even though he was given a Miranda warning at the intake center, he was never told that his previous statement, in which he admitted a prior felony, could not be used against him.
The United States Supreme Court has addressed the issue of a suspect who gives an unwarned statement, followed by a later statement made after a Miranda warning. Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 309, 105 S. Ct. 1285, 1293 (1985). The Court stated:
It is an unwarranted extension of Miranda to hold that a simple failure to administer the warnings, unaccompanied by any actual coercion or other circumstances calculated to undermine the suspect’s ability to exercise his free will, so taints the investigatory process that a subsequent voluntary and informed waiver is ineffective for some indeterminate period. Though Miranda requires that the unwarned admission must be suppressed, the admissibility of any subsequent statement should turn in these circumstances solely on whether it is knowingly and voluntarily made.
Id. The Court also noted, however, that failure to give a Miranda warning creates “a presumption of compulsion.” Id. at 307, 105 S. Ct. at 1292.
Sayles relies on the reasoning in State v. Bailey, 677 N.W.2d 380, 380 (Minn. 2004), in challenging the admissibility of his statements. In Bailey, the police arrested the defendant at gunpoint, placed him in a squad car, and interrogated him for 15 to 20 minutes. Id. at 385-86, 392 n.8. Upon arriving at the police station, the same officers continued interrogating the defendant for about 10 minutes. Id. at 392 n.8. During the stationhouse interrogation, officers broke questioning to read the defendant the Miranda warning before resuming the questioning. Id. at 386 n.1. The defendant provided nearly identical information to police both before and after the Miranda warning. Id. at 386. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the suppression of the defendant’s post-Miranda statement, holding:
[W]here a suspect is apprehended under coercive circumstances, is subjected to lengthy custodial interrogation before being given a Miranda warning, does not have the benefit of a significant pause in the interrogation after the Miranda warning is given, and essentially repeats the same inculpatory statements after the Miranda warning as before, the statements made after the Miranda warning are inadmissible.
Id. at 392.
Sayles argues that, like Bailey, he was arrested and interrogated in a squad car without a Miranda warning. He also stresses that he was re-interrogated after arriving at the intake center and that his post-Miranda statement was similar to his prior, unwarned, statement. Therefore, he concludes that his post-Miranda statements were involuntary and the district court erred in admitting them.
Sayles’ circumstances were not similar to those in Bailey. At the scene of Sayles’ arrest, there was no questioning by the police until after Sayles spontaneously said that he knew about the marijuana but not about the gun. Then one of the officers simply asked if he had a permit and whether he had been involved in matters that would make him ineligible to have a firearm.
Over eight hours passed before the interrogation at the intake center. This was conducted by a different officer in a different setting and only after the officer warned Sayles of his Miranda rights and obtained his clear waiver. Furthermore, it was in this interview that Sayles for the first time admitted that he possessed the firearm.
This latter point is significant because it negates Sayles’ argument that the police already had his admissions from the squad-car questioning and he believed that he might as well continue with his admissions because the information obtained earlier would be used against him anyway.
These circumstances do not show the coerciveness that would be necessary to render Sayles’ post-Miranda statements involuntary.
Sufficiency of Evidence
To prove that Sayles was ineligible to possess the firearm found in his car, the state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) he possessed a firearm, (2) he had previously been convicted of a crime of violence, and (3) fewer than ten years had elapsed since his civil rights were restored. Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2000).
We view the evidence in a light most favorable to the verdict or finding of guilt to determine whether the facts and legitimate inferences from the facts would permit the conclusion that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Davis v. State, 595 N.W.2d 520, 525 (Minn. 1999). We “review criminal bench trials the same as jury trials when determining whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain convictions.” Id. (quotation omitted).
Sayles concedes that he would be ineligible to possess a firearm if he had a prior felony conviction for narcotics possession. But he contends that, even if his admission to such prior felony was properly received in evidence, he may not be found guilty unless there is also evidence, apart from his admission, that he committed that crime.
As part of the stipulated record, the trial court received a certified copy of an Illinois court record showing that “Ulysses Gales” had been convicted in 1992 of a controlled-substance crime. Sayles contends that a conviction of “Gales” does not satisfy the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that “Sayles” was convicted of a disqualifying crime.
“Gales” was given a 30-month probationary sentence. According to another certified court record from Illinois, which was part of the stipulated evidence, in 1994 Sayles was convicted of unlawful use of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced to prison for three years. On the same day, the same judge revoked the probation of “Gales” and imposed the same term of imprisonment given to Sayles.
It was reasonable for the trial court to draw the inference that “Gales” and “Sayles” are the same person. The uncommon first name of “Ulysses,” the same dates for the felony conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm and the probation revocation, and the same judge presiding over both matters support the requisite inference. Furthermore, Sayles admitted that he was sent to prison for a narcotics offense eight or nine years earlier and the record shows “Gales” being sent to prison for precisely such offense eight or nine years earlier. See In re Welfare of M.D.S., 345 N.W.2d 723, 735 (Minn. 1984) (stating that the state is required to produce independent evidence that bolsters the trustworthiness of the confession).
Sayles’ admissions during the intake-center interrogation were sufficiently corroborated by independent evidence in the form of the Illinois criminal records. Accordingly, we hold that the evidence was sufficient to support Sayles’ convictions.
Evidence Allegedly Beyond the Record
Contending that the trial court based its decision on evidence outside the record, Sayles cites the court’s statement that “[t]here was also arguments made about the fact that the birth dates on the convictions were not the same as the birth dates of Mr. Sayles.” Such arguments occurred during the omnibus hearing, and not during the stipulated facts trial. Additionally, the pages referencing the defendant’s birth dates on the certified convictions were not in evidence.
Despite the court’s reference to the omnibus hearing arguments concerning the differing birth dates on the certified convictions, the district court expressly found:
Reviewing the record I’m convinced that this defendant, Mr. Sayles, is the same person as those named in the certified copies of conviction. That’s corroborated by the fact that Mr. Sayles told Sergeant Granroos that he had been convicted in Chicago for possession of narcotics. And the certified copies of conviction show that Mr. Sayles was sent to the Department of Corrections in Illinois for the ’94 case, which in turn caused a revocation of the ’92 case, which is evidence that the authorities in Chicago had sufficient evidence to convince them that it was the same person.
(Emphasis added). Thus, even though the court mentioned arguments offered at the omnibus hearing, it stated that the record was the basis for its finding. Even without the information mentioned in the arguments, the record was sufficient to establish the elements of the offenses with which Sayles was charged. He has not shown that the court relied on any evidence other than that in the stipulated record.
But even if the court did rely on the arguments and evidence from outside the record, appellant has not shown that he was prejudiced. State v. Amos, 658 N.W.2d 201, 203 (Minn. 2003). As discussed above, the evidence in the record was sufficient to support the district court’s finding that Sayles had a prior conviction for a disqualifying crime. Because the evidence in the record was sufficient on this issue, a reference to evidence not part of the stipulated record did not influence the court’s findings of guilt.
Sayles has failed to show that the postconviction court erred in denying his petition for relief.