This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




State of Minnesota,



Jay Loren Kieffer,


Filed March 23, 1999


Huspeni, Judge[*]

Washington County District Court

File No. K5-97-1214

Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Douglas Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Jay A. Brunner, Assistant County Attorney, 14949 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN 55082-0006 (for respondent)

Peter J. Timmons, Metro Office Park, 2850 Metro Drive, #321, Bloomington, MN 55425 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[**]



In challenging his conviction for a fifth-degree controlled substance crime, appellant asserts that the district court erred by refusing to suppress all evidence and dismiss the charges. He argues that police did not have a reasonable, articulable basis for the initial seizure. He also argues that, because he was not given a Miranda warning prior to his statement, the district court erred in refusing to suppress his admission that the folded paper packet found in his pocket contained cocaine. Because we conclude that the district court did not err, we affirm.


At approximately 2:45 a.m. on March 7, 1997, Police Officer Jake Ayers noticed a vehicle parked in a rest area off Interstate 35. An adult male occupied the driver's seat. Ayers ran a license plate check on the vehicle and learned that appellant Jay Loren Kieffer was the registered owner of the vehicle and that Kieffer had a suspended license. After determining that the person sitting in the vehicle fit Kieffer's description, Ayers pulled up behind the vehicle and approached its occupant. Ayers asked the occupant for identification and learned that the man was Kieffer. Ayers then asked Kieffer to exit the vehicle. After Kieffer exited the vehicle, Ayers received a radio call informing him that there was a felony warrant out for Kieffer's arrest. Ayers then placed Kieffer under arrest and pat-searched him. During the search, Ayers discovered a paper packet or "bindle" in Kieffer's pocket. Ayers asked Kieffer what the packet contained, and Kieffer responded that it was cocaine. Ayers opened the packet and found a substance that was later identified as methamphetamine.

Kieffer was charged with a fifth-degree controlled substance crime and with driving after suspension. Kieffer moved to suppress all of the evidence obtained incident to his arrest and moved to dismiss the charges. The district court denied his motions. Kieffer and the state then stipulated to the facts, and the district court found Kieffer guilty of the controlled substance crime and not guilty of driving after suspension.


When reviewing a pretrial suppression order where the facts are undisputed and the district court's decision is a question of law, the appellate court may review the facts independently and determine whether, as a matter of law, the evidence should be suppressed. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).

1. Seizure

The validity of an investigative stop, or seizure, is a legal determination dependent on given facts. State v. Dickerson, 469 N.W.2d 462, 464 (Minn. App. 1991), aff'd, 481 N.W.2d 840 (Minn. 1992), aff'd, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993). A seizure occurs "`when [an] officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.'" In re Welfare of E.D.J., 502 N.W.2d 779, 781 (Minn. 1993) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1879 n.16 (1968)). For a seizure to occur, the actions by the police must be such that a reasonable person would believe that he or she is not free to leave. Id. at 783.

Kieffer asserts that Officer Ayers seized him when Ayers asked for identification and had him step out of his vehicle and that this seizure was not based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity.

While we conclude that Ayers did not seize Kieffer when Ayers approached Kieffer's parked vehicle and questioned him, see id. at 782 (stating seizure generally does not occur when police approach and question person sitting in parked vehicle), we agree that a seizure occurred when Ayers asked Kieffer to exit the vehicle. See id. at 781 (recognizing seizure occurs when officer demonstrates show of authority). Ayers needed to have a reasonable and articulable suspicion, at that time, that Kieffer was engaged in criminal activity. See State v. Dickerson, 481 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 1992) (stating officer must, to validate stop, have reasonable, articulable suspicion that suspect might be engaged in criminal activity), aff'd, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993). We conclude that Ayers had a reasonable and articulable suspicion.

A brief investigatory stop or seizure requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and does not require probable cause. State v. Pike, 551 N.W.2d 919, 921 (Minn. 1996). "An actual violation of the vehicle and traffic laws need not be detectable." Id. A stop cannot be based on "mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity," however, and must be based on "`specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.'" Id. at 921-22 (Minn. 1996) (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S. Ct. at 1880).

As Kieffer correctly observes, Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (1998), prohibits only the operation of a vehicle after suspension and does not prohibit mere physical control. See In re the Welfare of T.J.B., 488 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1992) (recognizing Minn. Stat. § 171.24 (1990) did not include physical-control standard), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1992). But the statutory requirement of "operation" does not defeat Ayers's reasonable and articulable suspicion. Kieffer was the only person in the vehicle when Ayers approached, the vehicle was registered in Kieffer's name, Kieffer was seated in the driver's seat, and he was parked at a rest stop located just off Interstate 35 at 2:45 a.m. These facts are sufficient to support the district court's determination that Ayers seized Kieffer based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion that Kieffer had been operating the vehicle rather than on "mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity." Pike, 551 N.W.2d at 921. Therefore, the district court did not err in refusing to suppress all evidence obtained after Ayers seized Kieffer and did not err in refusing to dismiss the charges.

2. Miranda warning

Appellate courts independently review district court determinations "regarding custody and the necessity of a Miranda warning." State v. Miller, 573 N.W.2d 661, 670 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted). A Miranda warning is required only during custodial interrogation. Id. "Interrogation" means not only express questioning but also any words or actions by the police "`that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.'" State v. Ingold, 450 N.W.2d 344, 346-47 (Minn. App. 1990) (quoting Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301, 100 S. Ct. 1682, 1689-90 (1980)), review denied (Minn. Mar. 8, 1990). "`Any statement given freely and voluntarily without any compelling influences is, of course, admissible in evidence.'" State v. Edrozo, 578 N.W.2d 719, 725 (Minn. 1998) (quoting Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 1630 (1966)).

Kieffer argues that the district court erred in refusing to suppress his statement that the folded paper packet found in his pocket contained cocaine because he made the statement before being given a Miranda warning. Neither Kieffer nor the state disputes that Kieffer was under arrest for an outstanding warrant when Ayers questioned Kieffer about the packet. The district court determined that Ayers's question did not require a Miranda warning because it was "[g]eneral on-the-scene questioning * * * for purposes of obtaining an inventory of [Kieffer's] personal property." The court went on to state that Kieffer's answer was "voluntary and spontaneous." We disagree and believe a Miranda warning was required.

This is not a case where police were merely asking investigatory questions to determine whether there was probable cause to arrest. See State v. England, 409 N.W.2d 262, 265 (Minn. App. 1987) (emphasizing statements that are product of threshold investigatory questioning do not require Miranda warning). Kieffer was already under arrest for an outstanding warrant when Ayers questioned him. Further, there is no indication that Ayers was questioning Kieffer merely for the purpose of inventorying Kieffer's property. Kieffer was responding to a direct question from Ayers; his answer was not "voluntary and spontaneous."

We cannot conclude our inquiry at this point, however. Although Ayers violated Kieffer's Fifth Amendment rights by failing to give Kieffer a Miranda warning before questioning him about the packet, a district court's error in admitting a statement does not necessitate reversal if the admission was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Juarez, 572 N.W.2d 286, 291 (Minn. 1997) (stating conviction may stand if erroneously admitted statement was harmless beyond reasonable doubt). When determining whether evidence is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the court must establish whether the challenged evidence might reasonably have contributed to the defendant's conviction. Id. We conclude that the district court's refusal to suppress the evidence was harmless error.

Here, Kieffer was searched incident to his arrest, and, therefore, a search for evidence and weapons was legal. See State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 892 (Minn. 1998) (stating search incident to arrest is valid and does not require additional justification; arresting officer may search for weapons and evidence). Subsequent testing established that the packet found in Kieffer's pocket contained methamphetamine. Kieffer makes no challenge to this testing. Further, even if Ayers had not discovered the packet and learned its contents during the search incident to Kieffer's arrest, the contents of the packet would have been discovered during a routine inventory search after Kieffer was transported to jail. See Geer v. State, 406 N.W.2d 34, 36 (Minn. App. 1987) (noting pursuant to inventory search, police may examine "all items removed from the arrestee's person or possession" when an arrestee is going to be jailed), review denied (Minn. July 15, 1987). Thus, because the packet was seized properly and its identification as methamphetamine is unchallenged, ample evidence of Kieffer's guilt existed independent of his statement. The district court's error in refusing to suppress Kieffer's statement was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.


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

[**] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.