This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998)




State of Minnesota,



Jeriod David Knerr,


Filed March 30, 1999


Lansing, Judge

Isanti County District Court

File No. K997615

Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Catherine M. Keane, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Jeffrey Edblad, Isanti County Attorney, 555 18th Avenue Southwest, Cambridge, MN 55008 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)

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



In an appeal from convictions for fifth-degree controlled substance crime and possession of drug paraphernalia, Jeriod Knerr challenges the constitutionality of the search producing the physical evidence and the evidentiary basis for the chain of custody. The facts establish that the search was constitutional and the foundation for the evidence was adequate. We affirm.


A jury found Jeriod Knerr guilty of fifth-degree controlled substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (1996), and possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.092 (1996). The jury also found him guilty of two misdemeanor offenses (undisputed on appeal), speeding and failure to use a seat belt. The disputed charges stemmed from a search of Knerr after he was detected by radar driving 70 miles per hour in a posted 55 miles per hour speed zone. Knerr told the trooper that his driver's license was lost. Before checking Knerr's identity through the patrol car radio, the trooper asked Knerr to step out of the car. Knerr, visibly upset, got out of the car and kicked out the left rear taillight of his car. The trooper then asked Knerr to lean against the patrol car so the trooper could search for weapons.

As the trooper approached Knerr, he noticed the smell of burnt marijuana emanating from Knerr's jacket or his person. In the front pockets of Knerr's jacket, the trooper discovered two Leatherman tools[1] and two marijuana pipes. In the coin pocket of Knerr's pants the trooper found a 1-1/2 to 2-inch glass vial holding a residue, later determined to contain cocaine. The trooper confiscated the vial, seated Knerr in the squad car, and verified his identity. The trooper did not have a controlled-substance test kit and did not issue Knerr a citation for controlled substance or place him under arrest.

The trooper sealed the evidence obtained from the search in a plastic bag. At the station, the trooper deposited the sealed evidence bag in a locked evidence drop-box to which only Sergeant Thomas Ludford had access.

Following a contested omnibus hearing, the district court denied Knerr's motions to dismiss and to suppress evidence seized as a result of the search. Knerr appeals, contending the scope of the search was improper and the foundation for the admission of the cocaine was insufficient.


In cases involving police actions at traffic stops, we review determinations of reasonable suspicion and probable cause de novo. In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 690 (Minn. 1997) (citing Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 698-99, 116 S. Ct. 1657, 1663 (1996)). Similarly, when the material facts are not in dispute, we review de novo a district court's decision on a motion to suppress. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).

A police officer may conduct a limited search of a person who is lawfully stopped when the officer "is justified in believing that the individual * * * is armed and presently dangerous." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 24, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1881 (1968); see also State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 889 (Minn. 1998). To determine whether a search was reasonable, we inquire (1) whether the officer's action was justified at its inception, and (2) whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place. Terry, 392 U.S. at 20, 88 S. Ct. at 1879.

Generally, a police officer has no reason to search for weapons in the context of a routine traffic stop. See State v. Curtis, 290 Minn. 429, 431-32, 190 N.W.2d 631, 633 (1971). An officer may, however, conduct a search following a routine traffic stop if the motorist assumes a hostile and threatening attitude when stopped, or if the police, after stopping the motorist, by cursory observation and without a search, have valid reason to believe the motorist is engaged in the commission of a more serious crime. Id. at 437, 190 N.W.2d at 636. "If the only justification for a search during an investigatory detention is discovery or preservation of contraband, however, the intrusion is not authorized." State v. Eggersgluess, 483 N.W.2d 94, 97 (Minn. App. 1992) (citations omitted).

The trooper lawfully stopped Knerr for exceeding the speed limit. Knerr's kicking his car's taillight out was a sufficient show of hostility to warrant Waxberg's search for weapons. Contrast Varnado, 582 N.W.2d at 890 (search improper when motorist cooperated fully and made no furtive or violent movements).

The trooper could legitimately have suspected the marijuana pipes might be weapons. Therefore, he was justified in removing them. The discovery of the pipes, combined with the smell of burnt marijuana emanating from Knerr, provided the trooper with probable cause to to believe he would find more evidence of drugs on Knerr's person. See State v. Ludtke, 306 N.W.2d 111 (Minn. 1981); State v. Hart, 412 N.W.2d 797 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, 1987). Once he lawfully seized suspected contraband in the weapons search, the trooper could go forward to search for additional contraband. Hart, 412 N.W.2d at 801 (citing Ludtke, 306 N.W.2d at 113); see also 4 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 9.5(c) (3d ed. 1996). The scope of the search was therefore proper.


The district court has broad discretion when determining the sufficiency of the foundation for the admission of evidence. State v. Winston, 300 Minn. 314, 317, 219 N.W.2d 617, 619 (1974). Authentication is a condition precedent to admissibility, which is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims. Minn. R. Evid. 901(a). When evidence is not unique or readily identifiable, the evidence must be authenticated by means of a chain of custody. State v. Hager, 325 N.W.2d 43, 44 (Minn. 1982). Chain-of-custody authentication requires testimony of continuous possession by each individual having possession, together with testimony by each that the object remained in substantially the same condition during its presence in his possession. Id.

The chain-of-custody rule serves the dual purpose of demonstrating (1) the evidence offered is the same as that seized, and (2) it is in substantially the same condition "at the time of trial as it was at the time of seizure." State v. Johnson, 307 Minn. 501, 504, 239 N.W.2d 239, 242 (1976). The rule insures that the items seized have not been exchanged for others more incriminating and that they have not been contaminated or altered. Id. All possibility of alteration, substitution, or change of condition, however, need not be eliminated in laying a chain-of-custody foundation. Hager, 325 N.W.2d at 44. If, upon consideration of the evidence as a whole, the court determines that the evidence is sufficient to support a finding by a reasonable juror that the matter in question is what its proponent claims, the evidence will be admitted. Id.

Knerr's only objection to the sufficiency of the chain-of-custody authentication is that Sergeant Ludford had no independent recollection of the evidence in this case. In the absence of any indication of substitution, alteration, or other form of tampering, however, reasonable protective measures, including the use of notes, identification numbers, and labels, are sufficient. Id.; see also McDonald v. State, 351 N.W.2d 658, 660 (Minn. App. 1984) (chain of custody sufficient though one witness in the chain did not testify specifically as to receipt or handling of drugs), review denied (Minn. Oct. 16, 1984). Ludford's testimony explaining his regular procedures (use of a locked evidence box, a locked evidence room to which he has the only key, and personal delivery to the laboratory for analysis) established an adequate link in the chain of custody.

Waxberg, Ludford, and Steve Banning, a criminologist with the St. Paul Police Department Crime Laboratory, presented a complete chain of custody by testifying that the evidence was not tampered with while in their possession. Thus, despite Ludford's inability to recall independently the contents of the evidence bag in this case, a reasonable juror could easily have concluded that the evidence offered was the same as that seized and that it was in substantially the same condition at the time of trial as at the time of seizure. The district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the cocaine.


[1] A Leatherman tool is a folding tool similar to a Swiss Army knife; it contains a knife blade, screwdriver, bottle opener, and other tools.