This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed September 25, 2007
Dakota County District Court
File No. K2-07-5
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
James C. Backstrom,
Mark D. Nyvold, Special Assistant
State Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The state challenges the district court’s order requiring the state to disclose the identity of a confidential informant. Because we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by ordering disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant, who was not a material witness to the crime with which respondent is charged, we reverse and remand.
January 1, 2007,
Rambahal was charged with being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1 (2006). Shortly before trial, the two police reports were disclosed to the defense. Rambahal moved for an order requiring the state to disclose the identity of the confidential informant, and the district court granted the motion. In its order, the district court concluded that “[t]he testimony of the concerned citizen that the gun belonged to the other party present at [Rambahal’s] arrest would be helpful to [him] in overcoming an element of the crime charged, possession, and is most certainly material to the issue of [Rambahal’s] guilt.” The district court also found that it was not “mere speculation” that the confidential informant’s testimony would be “necessary” to a determination of Rambahal’s guilt. The district court therefore concluded that the necessity for disclosure “outweighs any hindrance disclosure may have on effective law enforcement.” This appeal by the state follows.
D E C I S I O N
argues first that we should dismiss the state’s appeal because the state has not
established that the district court’s order has a “critical impact” on the
state’s case, relying on State v. Hunter,
349 N.W.2d 865 (Minn. App. 1984). We
disagree. Although Hunter did apply the critical-impact requirement to a discovery
order, a later case criticized Hunter
and held that a critical-impact analysis was not required on an appeal from a
The state argues that the district
court erred by ordering disclosure of the confidential informant’s identity. We
review a district court’s order requiring the disclosure of a confidential
informant’s identity for an abuse of discretion. See State v.
determining whether to require the disclosure of a confidential informant’s
identity, a court considers four factors: (1) whether the informant is a
material witness, that is, a witness to the actual crime; (2) whether the
informant’s testimony is material to the issue of the defendant’s guilt; (3)
whether the officer’s testimony is suspect; and (4) whether the identity of
the informant might demonstrate an entrapment defense. Syrovatka v. State, 278 N.W.2d 558, 561-62 (
The state argues that the first Syrovatka factor does not support disclosure because the confidential informant was not a material witness to the crime with which Rambahal is charged. If a confidential informant is a mere transmitter of information and not a material witness to the actual crime, the disclosure of the informant’s identity is generally not required. Litzau, 650 N.W.2d at 184. Further, even if a confidential informant were involved in an earlier part of the crime, either as a participant or a witness, that fact alone does not necessarily make the informant’s testimony material. Ford, 322 N.W.2d at 614. Here, it is undisputed that the confidential informant was not present when Rambahal was arrested on January 1 and is not, therefore, a material witness to whether Rambahal possessed the pistol on that date. Thus, we conclude that the first factor does not support disclosure.
the second Syrovatka factor, a court
must consider whether the confidential informant’s testimony is material to the
issue of the defendant’s guilt. Syrovatka, 278 N.W.2d at 562. Rambahal argues that the confidential informant’s
testimony is material to the issue of his guilt because “[t]he informant has
information directly relevant to ownership of the gun . . . .” But to prove a violation of section 624.713,
subdivision 1, the state must prove only that Rambahalpossessed the pistol, either actually or constructively, on
January 1, not that Rambahal owned the pistol.
Because neither of the applicable Syrovatka factors supports disclosure, the district court abused its discretion by requiring the disclosure of the confidential informant’s identity. We therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.