may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Robby NMN Williams,
File No. 97027760
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for appellant)
A. Demetrius Clemons, 425 South Third Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.**
Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
The state appeals a pretrial order suppressing evidence for lack of probable cause to arrest respondent Robby NMN Williams, who is charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. We reverse.
On April 2, 1997, the informant in this case was arrested on a narcotics charge. Although he had never before been a police informant, he offered to order crack cocaine from one of his suppliers, "Bobby." With the informant's consent, the police taped the conversation between informant and respondent and listened as the informant made the phone call. The informant and respondent arranged to meet at a Target store parking lot in 45 minutes. Consistent with the informant's information, the supplier: (1) was an approximately 25-year-old black male; (2) arrived at Target at the specified time; (3) was driving a car that matched the informant's description; (4) drove around a phone bank in the parking lot and then parked, looked around, and went into Target; and (5) stopped by the phones in Target and spent about 30 minutes in the store.
Police officers approached respondent and arrested him for probable cause that he was delivering narcotics. He was frisked for weapons, placed in the squad car, and his car was checked for contraband. Although no contraband was found, the police subsequently discovered cocaine in the squad car.
At the suppression hearing, the district court ruled that the officers had reasonable cause to stop respondent, but did not have probable cause to arrest him. Therefore, the cocaine evidence was suppressed.
The district court found no probable cause to arrest because the search did not reveal drugs, and thus the informant's assertion that respondent was carrying drugs was not corroborated. We disagree. The discovery of drugs during the search for weapons is irrelevant to our analysis because the officers made the probable cause determination and subsequent arrest before searching respondent or his car. Our focus, therefore, is on whether the informant's phone call, combined with the respondent's actions, constituted sufficient probable cause to arrest.
[W]hen reviewing a pre-trial order suppressing evidence where the facts are not in dispute and the trial court's decision is a question of law, the reviewing court may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the evidence need be suppressed.
State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
The test of probable cause to arrest is whether the objective facts are such that under the circumstances "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)). "Probable cause is concerned with probabilities and is something more than mere suspicion and something less than evidence which would sustain a conviction." State v. Fish, 280 Minn. 163, 169, 159 N.W.2d 786, 790 (1968).
An informant's veracity, reliability, and basis of knowledge are useful for determination of probable cause. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2328 (1983). "An informant's credibility can be established by sufficient police corroboration of the informant's information." State v. Albrecht, 465 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Minn. App. 1991). "[T]he fact that police can corroborate part of the informer's tip as truthful may suggest that the entire tip is reliable." State v. Siegfried, 274 N.W.2d 113, 115 (Minn. 1978).
In State v. Davis, we found that a face-to-face confrontation between a tipster and an officer puts a tipster in a position where police might be able to trace his identity, and consequently we concluded that police might be able to hold the tipster accountable for providing any false information.
Matter of the Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 691 (Minn. 1997) (citing State v. Davis, 393 N.W.2d 179, 181 (Minn. 1986)).
In State v. Filipi, 297 N.W.2d 275, 277 (Minn. 1980), the supreme court found probable cause to arrest when an informant received information through direct dealings with the defendant, which was independently corroborated by information obtained prior to the arrest. The court found corroboration because: (1) the phone number the informant provided was listed to the man with whom the informant said defendant lived; (2) the defendant had the same first name as the registered owner of the car that the police observed the informant meeting; (3) the defendant left his house at the time pre-arranged to meet the informant for the deal set up by police; and (4) the defendant put a duffel bag in his trunk before leaving his house. Id. at 276-77.
Consistent with Filipi, we conclude the police had probable cause to arrest respondent based on the corroboration of the informant's information. The police were present when the informant called respondent to set up the buy, and respondent proceeded to do everything the informant said he would. Thus, we conclude it was reasonable for the police officers to have an honest and strong suspicion that respondent was delivering drugs. Further, the reliability of the informant was enhanced because he had face-to-face contact with the police officers, was in custody, and could be held accountable for any false information. We conclude that, based on the reliability of the informant and the corroboration of his information, the police officers had probable cause to arrest respondent.