This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Washington County District Court
File No. KX-05-2955
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800
Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Jennifer Bovitz, Assistant County Attorney, Stephanie Sheire, Certified Student Attorney, 14949 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court’s order denying his motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of an allegedly deficient search warrant. Because we conclude that the warrant is sufficient to satisfy the particularity requirements of the Fourth Amendment, we affirm.
December 2004, America Online (AOL), an internet service provider, reported an
“incident involving Child Pornography,” which was confirmed and documented by
complied with the subpoena request and indicated that the subscriber was Chelsie
Pruden and that her billing address was 440 Maple Street, #5, Marine on St.
receiving this information, Investigator Wayne Johnson called the phone number,
asked for Chelsie, and spoke with an unidentified male who said that Chelsie, his
wife, was busy feeding their child. Johnson
then applied for a warrant to search the apartment that was listed as Chelsie
Pruden’s home. The search warrant
application included all of the information described above. On January 18, 2005, the district court
issued a search warrant authorizing the police to search “
same day, Investigator Johnson and accompanying officers attempted to execute
the warrant. Johnson knocked on the door
A Washington County forensic computer technician analyzed the contents of Prudens’ computer hard drive and discovered evidence that T. Pruden intentionally possessed digital images of child pornography. Thereafter, during the course of the interview with Investigator Johnson, T. Pruden admitted that he had images of child pornography on the computer and that he had downloaded pictures approximately 50 times.
In May 2005, T. Pruden was charged with possession of pictorial representations of minors, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 617.247, subd. 4 (2004). T. Pruden moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the allegedly deficient warrant. The district court denied the motion. T. Pruden’s case was submitted to the district court on stipulated facts, and he was found guilty as charged. This appeal follows.
issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in denying appellant T.
Pruden’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an allegedly invalid
search. “When reviewing pretrial orders
on motions to suppress evidence, we may 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 (
Fourth Amendment provides that a search warrant shall not issue unless it
“particularly describ[es] the place to be searched.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Both Article 1, Section 10 of the Minnesota
Constitution and Minn. Stat. § 626.08 (2006) contain similar provisions. Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth
Amendment’s particularity requirement is subject to exclusion. Mapp v.
Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655, 81
S. Ct. 1684, 1691 (1961).
executing a search warrant are, and ought to be, strictly limited to searching
only the premises particularly described in the warrant. It is constitutionally impermissible to
search one place under a warrant describing another place or to seize one item
under a warrant naming another item.” State v. Mathison, 263 N.W.2d 61, 63 (
notwithstanding these important purposes, a warrant’s erroneous description of
the place to be searched does not necessarily invalidate a search conducted on
the basis of that warrant. See State v. Gonzales, 314 N.W.2d 825,
Courts have upheld a search notwithstanding
the accompanying search warrant’s erroneous description of the place to be
searched. The Minnesota Supreme Court’s
decision in Gonzales and our decision
in State v. Kessler, 470 N.W.2d 536
(Minn. App. 1991), are representative. In
Gonzales, after a reliable informant
showed police a residence containing stolen property, police applied for and
received a warrant to search “
appeal, the supreme court reversed, concluding that even though the officer
learned that the warrant’s address was inaccurate when executing the warrant,
“there was no reasonable probability that [the officer] was searching the wrong
more recent decision in Kessler
presented similar circumstances. In Kessler, an officer applied for and
received a warrant to search “
appeal, we reversed, concluding that “the mistaken address on the warrant [did]
not relate to the propriety of the warrant.”
court has also found that a warrant that failed to identify any apartment was
defective and the search was improper. See In re Welfare of T.L.K., 487 N.W.2d
The foregoing cases are instructive in deciding this case. In Gonzales and Kessler,the officers knew the actual persons and premises to be searched before executing the inaccurate warrant. Here, Investigator Johnson knew the identity of the person whose apartment he intended to search, the apparent street address, and at least a recent apartment number. With the driver’s license photograph, Johnson could recognize Chelsie Pruden. Once he recognized Chelsie and she confirmed that the family had recently moved from apartment #5 to #4, there was no reasonable probability that the officers would search the wrong apartment. In fact, at that point Inspector Johnson presumably knew that the search warrant should have identified the premises as apartment #4.
Investigator Johnson’s search of apartment #4 was conducted in a restrained fashion. He explained what the officers were looking for and both appellant T. Pruden and his wife directed them to the computer that was in the apartment. Although the Prudens were told by the officers that they had a warrant and the state does not claim that the search was voluntary, the record indicates that the Prudens knew that the officers were confused about the apartment number and the Prudens cooperated. Under the circumstances, the search cannot be characterized as random or exploratory.
also note that the affidavit on which the warrant was based conspicuously
identified the occupant of the apartment.
In issuing the search warrant, the magistrate concluded that there was
probable cause to permit the search of Chelsie Pruden’s residence. The officers conducted only such a
search. As in Kessler, here there is no indication of subterfuge on the part of
the officers and T. Pruden. While the
warrant appears to have been technically defective, and it may have been most
prudent for the officers to apply for a new warrant listing the correct
address, when viewed in the totality of the circumstances, there was not a
reasonable probability that innocent persons were exposed to an unreasonable
search. See Doust, 285
case before us is similar to T.L.K in
that both are apartment searches. But in
T.L.K., no apartment unit was identified
on the warrant. 487 N.W.2d at 912. In fact, the search in T.L.K. was random, the discovery of drugs was accidental, and the
defendant was not the person the police were seeking.
In contrast to T.L.K., here the specificity was greater. The officers’ investigative conduct was focused on particular occupants. The officers had attempted to accurately identify the correct apartment number. ICAC had received Chelsie Pruden’s address from AOL, confirmed that address using driver’s license records, and conducted a reverse check of the provided phone number. Investigator Johnson then called this phone number and asked for Chelsie. Each of these investigative actions minimized the risk of an unreasonable search. But because Prudens had moved, the wrong number was on the warrant.
Because under the circumstances there was no reasonable probability that the officers were searching the residence of the wrong family, and because the search was not random or exploratory, we conclude that the particularity requirements of the Fourth Amendment do not invalidate the search. Because we conclude that the search was not defective, we do not reach the state’s alternative argument that exigent circumstances justified a warrantless search of T. Pruden’s apartment.
 T. Pruden moved to withdraw his appellate claim that he was entitled to a jury trial. This motion was granted by a special-term panel of this court. Accordingly, we do not address that argument.