This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sheila Kay Knaffla,
Keith Jerome Ferguson,
Filed March 20, 2007
Concurring specially, Ross, Judge
Lake County District Court
File Nos. 38-CR-05-505, 38-CR-05-504
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800
Russell Conrow, Lake County Attorney,
Mary M. McMahon, McMahon & Associates Criminal Defense,
Richard S. Eskola,
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
March 2005, law enforcement received information from confidential reliable
sources indicating that respondent Keith Ferguson regularly drove a white Jeep Cherokee
April and May 2005, police conducted surveillance of
the afternoon of June 2, 2005, Deputy DeRosier was driving south on Highway 61
when he passed a vehicle that he believed to be
DeRosier quickly arrived on the scene and found that Knaffla was the only
person in the vehicle. Deputy DeRosier immediately
asked Knaffla to sit in his squad car to talk to him. She was not read her Miranda rights. Some time
after Knaffla and Deputy DeRosier began talking in the squad car, Deputy DeRosier
began recording their conversation. Thus,
part of the conversation is unrecorded.
Deputy DeRosier told Knaffla that she was not under arrest, but he stated
that the police were looking for
denied having knowledge of anything in the Jeep other than her belongings, but at
some point, she reached into her pocket and produced a “one-hitter” used for
smoking marijuana and admitted to “smoking pot.” Deputy DeRosier believed that Knaffla knew the
residents of the
told Deputy DeRosier that
Deputies then used a K-9 to search the vehicle. The dog alerted to Knaffla’s purse, which was in the center console of the Jeep, and to a small toolbox, which Knaffla stated had been used for methamphetamine at one time. In the center console, Deputy DeRosier found several portable butane torches and lighters. Inside the spare-tire compartment, Deputy DeRosier found a pouch that contained a loaded handgun and a box of shells. A serial-number check of the gun did not produce any record of its being stolen. Knaffla denied any knowledge of the gun. Deputy DeRosier told her that she was not being arrested but that she would be charged with fifth-degree possession of controlled substance. Knaffla was then allowed to drive the Jeep home from the sheriff’s office.
days later, the handgun was determined to have been stolen as part of a burglary
in Isanti. The victim stated that he believed
that his ex-wife was responsible for the burglary, and she had reportedly been
“hanging around” with
that day, Deputy DeRosier received a tip that both respondents had been seen in
a maroon Chrysler at a McDonald’s in Two Harbors.
In the course of an inventory search of the vehicle, Deputy DeRosier found a pouch containing 6.5 grams of a leafy green substance, a digital scale, a butane torch, a methamphetamine pipe, and a straw, containing what he believed to be methamphetamine residue. Finally, Deputy DeRosier found marijuana paraphernalia, including what he believed to be marijuana residue, in Knaffla’s purse. There is no record that any of the substances believed to be illegal drugs were tested.
respondents were charged with possession of a stolen firearm, fifth-degree
possession of methamphetamine, and possession of marijuana. At a consolidated omnibus hearing, Knaffla
challenged the June 2 and September 26 stops based on lack of probable cause and
moved to suppress all evidence obtained from both searches and her statements
to Deputy DeRosier.
The district court determined that (1) the methamphetamine charge lacked foundation because the state had no evidence to establish its identity or weight; (2) the stop of the Jeep on June 2, 2005 was not based on reasonable, articulable suspicion; (3) the warrantless search of the Jeep on June 2 was per se unreasonable and, therefore, the gun is inadmissible; (4) Deputy DeRosier illegally took Knaffla into custody on June 2, and her unMirandized statements while she was in custody are inadmissible; (5) Deputy DeRosier lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the Chrysler on September 26, 2005; and (6) the warrantless search of the Chrysler on September 26 was illegal and, therefore, the evidence of the marijuana and methamphetamine found in the vehicle is inadmissible. Therefore, the district court dismissed all charges against the respondents. This consolidated appeal follows.
The state challenges the
district court’s pretrial order granting respondents’
suppression motions and dismissing all charges against them. The state may appeal pretrial orders
in felony cases pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.04, subd. 1(1). But in suppression-of-evidence cases, the
state must “clearly and unequivocally” show that (1) the district court’s
order will have a “critical impact” on the state’s ability to prosecute the
defendant successfully and (2) the order constituted error. State
v. Scott, 584 N.W.2d 412, 416 (
In determining whether a
pretrial suppression order constitutes error, appellate courts “independently
review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court
erred in suppressing—or not suppressing—the evidence.” State
v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (
Both the Fourth Amendment to
the United States Constitution and article I of the Minnesota Constitution prohibit
unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. U.S. Const. amend. IV;
A limited investigative stop
is lawful if the state can show that the officer had a “particularized and
objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal
activity.” State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (
The state argues, based on
Deputy DeRosier’s testimony that his only reason for stopping the Jeep on June
2, 2005, was the ongoing investigation of
In considering whether law
enforcement had a particularized objective basis to make an investigative stop,
courts are justified in considering both the totality of the circumstances and
the fact that trained law-enforcement officers are permitted to make
“inferences and deductions that might well elude an untrained person.” State
v. Kvam, 336 N.W.2d 525, 528 (
The state fails to cite any
cases indicating that a suspicion that stems from an ongoing investigation can
constitute a particularized objective basis for an investigatory stop. And even if the ongoing investigation were part of a valid,
particularized, and objective basis for the stop, that basis evaporated as soon as the deputies
We conclude that the
district court did not err by determining that there was no reasonable,
articulable suspicion that justified an investigatory stop of
Further, an investigative traffic
stop in which an individual is not free to terminate the encounter constitutes
a seizure. State v. Fort, 660 N.W.2d 415, 418 (
The conclusion that Knaffla was in custody is underscored by the fact that she asked to leave several times and was not allowed to. Deputy DeRosier had no reason to detain Knaffla, much less question her in his squad car, only partially recording the interview. As a further impropriety, Deputy DeRosier knowingly and falsely represented to Knaffla that he had a valid search warrant for the Jeep. There were many errors committed by law enforcement during this incident.
The state further argues
that the district court erred in suppressing the evidence obtained as a result
of the September 26, 2005 arrest and search.
The state contends that there was probable cause to arrest respondents
for possession of the stolen firearm on September 26. Probable cause to arrest requires police to
have a reasonable belief that a certain person has committed a crime. State
v. Wynne, 552 N.W.2d 218, 221-22 (
Deputy DeRosier conceded that he stopped respondents on September 26 solely because of the stolen handgun and not because of any objective reason to believe that respondents were illegally in possession of a firearm. The state made no argument that Deputy DeRosier had a reasonable, articulable suspicion of any traffic violation to justify the stop on September 26.
Because the deputy based the
arrest on the handgun charges, probable cause is lacking for two reasons. First, the handgun and all evidence related
to it were obtained unlawfully as a result of the June 2 stop. Therefore, that evidence could not have been used
to show probable cause for later arrests.
See Sun, 371
Because we conclude that the district court did not err in suppressing all evidence obtained after the June 2 stop and in determining that law enforcement could not use the evidence it obtained on June 2 to establish probable cause for the September 26 arrest, the district court did not err in dismissing all charges against respondents.
ROSS, Judge (concurring specially)
I concur entirely in the majority opinion, including its analysis and its conclusion that the district court did not err by suppressing the evidence obtained as a result of Deputy Richard DeRosier’s traffic stops. I write separately to express optimism that the law-enforcement officials and prosecutors involved will take a second look at the district court’s detailed analysis in addressing what appears to be a parade of unconstitutional police actions, which the state maintains were not constitutional violations at all.
It is difficult to imagine, after the swell of judicial decisions that have expounded on the Fourth Amendment’s restrictions and on the Miranda requirement, that a deputy would believe it is constitutionally fitting to seize the driver of a car that the deputy stopped without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the driver committed any crime; to refuse to release the driver after she requests to leave; to search her purse without reasonable suspicion, a warrant, or her consent; to detain and question her about suspected crimes while confined in his patrol car without advising her of her of her rights as required by Miranda; to take her to the sheriff’s office and conduct more questioning without uttering a word about Miranda; to lie to her, as the district court found, by falsely representing that he possessed a valid warrant; and, finally, to subject her to charges for a drug offense without any record that he ever tested the seized substances to establish that they were narcotics. The course of extended detention and questioning without Miranda warnings is not constitutionally problematic, insists the state’s counsel, because the deputy told the detained driver about twenty minutes into her custody that she was not, in fact, “under arrest.” In other words, we are asked to conclude that although she was detained, in custody, expressly denied her request to go home, held in a squad car, then taken to the sheriff’s office, she was not really “under arrest” during the lengthy apprehension.
Our majority opinion need not and therefore does not address each of the claimed constitutional violations to determine that all of the evidence obtained must be suppressed. And I will not address each point separately now, noting only that the record indicates the likelihood that none of the challenged police conduct was lawful. By closely considering the district court’s well-reasoned answer on each point, however, officials would be reminded of some of the settled limits of police authority.