This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




State of Minnesota,



Jayne Irene Stout,


Filed December 30, 1997

Reversed and remanded

Foley, Judge**

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

Freeborn County District Court

File No. K9-97-424

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Craig S. Nelson, Freeborn County Attorney, David J. Walker, Assistant County Attorney, Freeborn County Courthouse, 411 South Broadway, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (for appellant)

Mark D. Nyvold, Special Assistant State Public Defender, Suite 1030, 46 East 4th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.


FOLEY, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's pretrial order granting respondent's motion to suppress evidence on the ground it was illegally obtained. We reverse and remand.


Albert Lea police received information that packages containing methamphetamine were being shipped from Arizona to Heather Bergeson in Albert Lea. The police notified UPS to be aware of suspicious packages being sent to Bergeson. In April 1997, UPS intercepted a package from Arizona addressed to Bergeson and, upon opening the package, found it contained what looked like a controlled substance.

UPS contacted the police. Two detectives went to the UPS office, concluded the package contained methamphetamine, and brought the package back to the law enforcement center (LEC) for testing, which confirmed the substance was 233 grams of methamphetamine.

After weighing the methamphetamine, the officers put a similar amount of powdered coffee creamer, as well as a half teaspoon of methamphetamine, into plastic bags similar to those in the original package. The officers put these bags back into the package and brought it to UPS to be delivered to Bergeson's residence. UPS resealed the package, and the UPS operations supervisor took the package for delivery.

The officers followed the UPS truck to Bergeson's residence and took a surveillance position a half block away. The UPS supervisor went to the front door and knocked. When no one answered, he set the package inside the storm door. A short time later, respondent Jayne Irene Stout pulled up and parked her vehicle across the street from the residence. Stout walked up to the front door carrying a large black leather bag. She opened the storm door, picked up the package, and entered the residence.

Within five minutes, Stout came back out the front door still carrying the black leather bag, which was large enough to hold the package. She entered her vehicle and began to drive away. She was stopped a short distance from the house by Detective Spencer Osterberg.

Detective Osterberg told Stout she was a suspect in a drug investigation and asked her to step out of her vehicle. Other officers arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. The detectives asked Stout for consent to search her vehicle, but she refused. Stout was then placed into the squad car and taken to the LEC for questioning.

The police decided to have the car towed and Detective Osterberg entered the car to prepare it for towing. Once inside the car, he saw the black leather bag. Stout was charged with five felony counts relating to the illegal possession and distribution of methamphetamine.

Stout filed a motion to dismiss or suppress the evidence. The district court held an omnibus hearing and issued findings of fact and an omnibus order. The court found that the police were able to articulate good and sufficient reason for stopping Stout's car. The court also found, however, that Detective Osterberg entered the car without Stout's permission and there was no need for him to do so because it was legally parked and could have remained in the location until a search warrant was secured.

The district court granted Stout's motion to suppress the evidence seized from her vehicle on the grounds the seizure violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The state now appeals that ruling.


In a pretrial appeal, a reviewing court will only reverse the determination of the trial court if the state demonstrates, first, that the trial court clearly and unequivocally erred in its judgment and, second, that unless reversed, the error will critically impact the trial outcome. State v. Kim, 398 N.W.2d 544, 547 (Minn. 1987).

I. Search Incident to Arrest

The state argues the district court erred in holding that Stout was not effectively under arrest at the time of the search. We agree. The court held that this was not a search incident to the arrest of the defendant because

[w]hile it might be argued by the State that the defendant was arrested at the scene, the testimony of the officers was that she was taken into custody as part of the investigation process and was not arrested until later at the law enforcement center when the information of the discovery of the package of contraband in the bag was relayed to the officers conducting an interrogation of the defendant.

The district court order implies that the determination in this case was based on the subjective beliefs of the officers and their interpretation of their own actions. The supreme court, however, has repeatedly relied on the United States Supreme Court holding:

[I]if there is an objective legal basis for an arrest or search, the arrest or search is lawful even if the officer making the arrest or conducting the search based his or her action on the wrong ground or had an improper motive.

State v. Everett, 472 N.W.2d 864, 867 (Minn. 1991) (citing Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 98 S. Ct. 1717 (1978)) (emphasis added).

It is clear that a custodial arrest gives the police the authority to search the person as well as the vehicle of a defendant incident to that arrest. State v. White, 489 N.W.2d 792, 794 (Minn. 1992); State v. Martin, 253 N.W.2d 404, 405 (Minn. 1977); see also United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 236, 94 S. Ct. 467, 477 (1973) (custodial arrest gives rise to authority to search). The issue before this court, however, is when was the custodial arrest effected, thus giving rise to the authority to search the vehicle.

The record indicates that the police stopped Stout, asked her to step out of her car, and told her she was being detained in connection with a drug investigation. The police then placed her into the back seat of a patrol car and transported her to the LEC.

The district court ruled the search was invalid because Stout was not arrested until after the officers informed her she was under arrest at the LEC. The appropriate inquiry to be used in determining whether a suspect is under arrest, however, "is whether a reasonable person would have concluded, under the circumstances, that he was under arrest and not free to go." State v. Beckman, 354 N.W.2d 432, 436 (Minn. 1984).

No reasonable person would have felt free to leave after being told that she was being detained as a suspect in a drug case and then being placed in the back seat of a patrol car to be taken to the LEC. Under these circumstances, it would be unreasonable for Stout to conclude that she could terminate the encounter. Stout was under arrest when she was detained by the officers and put into the patrol car.

The subjective state of mind of the officers who stopped Stout is irrelevant to an analysis of when and whether a person is under arrest. Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 138, 98 S. Ct. 1717, 1723 (1978);State v. Everett, 472 N.W.2d 864, 867 (Minn. 1991); Beckman, 354 N.W.2d at 436. The district court erred in determining Stout was not under arrest and ruling this was not a search incident to the arrest of Stout.

II. The Automobile Exception

In Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153-56, 45 S. Ct. 280, 285 (1925), the Supreme Court held that a warrantless search of an automobile stopped by police officers who had probable cause to believe the vehicle contained contraband was not unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The courts continue to recognize the validity of Carroll. California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390-391, 105 S. Ct. 2066, 2068-69 (1985); State v. Search, 472 N.W.2d 850, 853 (Minn. 1991).

Here, the district court held Carroll did not apply because Detective Osterberg did not testify that he intended to search the automobile. Rather, he entered the vehicle to prepare it for towing. The district court found:

Several of the officers have testified that they intended to secure a search warrant for purposes of legally searching the defendant's vehicle, something they did not do after the discovery of the package by the unconstitutional intrusion into the vehicle.

Again, the district court made its determination based on the subjective beliefs of the officers. The touchstone of analysis under the exception to the warrant requirement established in Carroll, however, is whether the search is supported by probable cause. United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 808-09, 102 S. Ct. 2157, 2164 (1982). This probable cause determination is an objective test, based on facts that would justify the issuance of a warrant, even though a warrant has not been obtained. Id. at 808, 102 S. Ct. at 2164.

If probable cause justifies the search of a lawfully stopped vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents that may conceal the object of the search.

Ross, 456 U.S. at 825, 102 S. Ct. at 2173; State v. Bigelow, 451 N.W.2d 311, 313 (Minn. 1990). The district court determined that Stout's car had been lawfully stopped. Thus, the officers were authorized to search Stout's vehicle and its contents, including her black leather bag, as long as probable cause existed to conduct the search.

The test of probable cause is whether the objective facts are such that "'a person of ordinary care and prudence [would] entertain an honest and strong suspicion' that a crime has been committed." State v. Johnson, 314 N.W.2d 229, 230 (Minn. 1982) (quoting State v. Carlson, 267 N.W.2d 170, 173 (Minn. 1978)). The court has found support for probable cause, based on the existence of numerous factors. See, e.g., State v. Maldonado, 322 N.W.2d 349, 351-52 (Minn. 1982) (police had probable cause to search defendant's truck and no warrant was needed to search either truck or paper bag found inside truck, where clear that informant was credible and his information reliable, defendant and others hurriedly left vehicle when they saw police, and paper bag was sticking out from under driver's seat); State v. Charley, 278 N.W.2d 517, 519 (Minn. 1979) (warrantless search of defendant's automobile justified under automobile exception where police officer observed exchange between defendant and teenager in parking lot, officer knew of prior drug problems in parking lot, and officer observed defendant putting something under car seat when stopped); State v. Munoz, 385 N.W.2d 373, 376 (Minn. App. 1986) (probable cause existed to justify warrantless search of automobile based upon defendant's furtive movements, informant's tip, and officer's prior knowledge of defendant). We conclude the totality of the circumstances of this case clearly supports the existence of probable cause.

Here, the police had reliable information from an informant about the methampheta-mine. The police suspected that Bergeson's house was not the final destination for the methamphetamine, which is why they had it delivered to her address; to see where it would go and who would transport it.

The suspect arrived within 10 minutes of the original delivery. She carried a black leather bag large enough to conceal the package, picked up the package and brought it inside the house with her. She then left the house within five minutes of entering it, still carrying the black bag. After being stopped by the police, the suspect was identified as Jayne Stout, the sister of Greg Stout, the person suspected of mailing the package of methamphetamine.

Under these facts a person of ordinary care and prudence would have an honest and strong suspicion that Stout was carrying the package of methamphetamine when she left the house. Furthermore, a police officer "'may rely on his training and experience and draw inferences and make deductions that might well elude an untrained person.'" State v. Skoog, 351 N.W.2d 380, 381 (Minn. App. 1984) (quoting Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 746, 103 S. Ct. 1535, 1545 (1983)). Probable cause existed, and the district court erred in holding the Carroll exception did not apply.

III. Critical Impact

Critical impact has been shown not only in those cases where the lack of the suppressed evidence completely destroys the state's case, but also in those cases where the lack of the suppressed evidence significantly reduces the likelihood of a successful prosecution.

Kim, 398 N.W.2d at 551.

Stout argues that the state's prosecution will not be substantially affected if it proceeds without the suppressed evidence. First, the state will have the testimony of Bergeson, who will testify that Stout agreed to pick up the package and knew what was in it. Second, Stout argues the state also has evidence that Jayne Stout's brother, Greg, shipped the methamphetamine from Arizona.

The fact the state has evidence to demonstrate Greg Stout shipped the methamphetamine to Bergeson is irrelevant to the state's case against Jayne Stout. While Bergeson might testify to the effect that Stout agreed to pick up the package, without evidence of the fact she actually did, the state has no case against her. Without the suppressed evidence, which is indeed the only evidence of Stout's involvement in this crime, the "likelihood of a successful prosecution" will be significantly reduced. The suppressed evidence will have a critical impact on the trial.

Reversed and remanded.