This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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




State of Minnesota,



Rockney Jacob Peterson,


Filed July 20, 1999


Amundson, Judge

Winona County District Court

File No. K2-97-1195

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

Charles E. MacLean, Winona County Attorney, Winona County Courthouse, 171 West Third Street, Winona, MN 55987 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant State Public Defender, Ann Berdahl, Certified Student Attorney, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant Rockney Peterson challenges the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, arguing evidence of a controlled substance should be suppressed because it was seized only as a result of an unlawful warrantless arrest. Because we find there was probable cause to support Peterson's arrest, we affirm.


On August 27, 1998, an informant contacted Deputy Chief Jerry Seibert. Deputy Seibert had known the informant for approximately 20 years and the informant had previously provided Deputy Seibert with information that furthered police investigations and resulted in arrests. That same day, Deputy Seibert met with the informant in person. The informant told Deputy Seibert the following information:

1. A man named Rockney Peterson, whose mother recently passed away, would be arriving that same day from Milwaukee on the 6:48 p.m. train.

2. Peterson would be traveling alone and would be carrying a duffel bag containing cocaine.

3. Peterson was currently living in his mother's home in the Lewiston area.

4. Peterson had raped his friend's 16-year-old daughter and his friend, having recently learned of the rape, was planning on meeting Peterson to "take care of the matter." Peterson suggested the police get involved to prevent anything from happening.

5. Informant told Deputy Seibert that if neither the father nor the police did something about it, he would beat Peterson with a bat.

6. Informant showed Deputy Seibert a photograph of a man in his early forties with brown hair and beard, identifying the man as Peterson.

The train was due only an hour after Deputy Seibert met with the informant. In that short time, Deputy Seibert convened a team of officers and was able to verify that the man in the photograph was Peterson and that since his mother's death, he had been living in her home. Deputy Seibert confirmed with Amtrak that a 6:48 p.m. train was due in from Milwaukee, but the train had been delayed and would not arrive until about 8:00 p.m.

Deputy Seibert and the team of officers, including two plainclothes officers, who had been given a description of Peterson and viewed the photograph supplied by the informant, met the Milwaukee train. The train finally arrived at the station at 9:50 p.m. One of the plainclothes officers saw a man matching Peterson's description and photograph stand up inside the train. After the officer watched the man leave the train, carrying a green duffel bag, he signaled the other officers. An officer called out "Rockney," which caused the man to stop and look around. The officer then asked him if he was Rockney Peterson. The man replied "yes." Peterson was then arrested. Peterson was searched incident to the arrest. A film canister and some aluminum foil were found in his pants pockets. In a field test, a white powdery substance found in the canister tested positive for cocaine. The officers then sought and obtained a search warrant to search the duffel bag, finding various drug paraphernalia and a half a pound of cocaine valued at over $18,000.

Peterson was charged with one count of controlled substance crime in the first degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2(1) (1996) and one count of importing controlled substances across state borders in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.0261, subd. 1 (1996). At his omnibus hearing, Peterson moved to suppress the evidence of the cocaine, asserting lack of probable cause to arrest Peterson and lack of probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. The motion was denied.

When the case was submitted to the district court on stipulated facts, Peterson preserved his right to appeal the probable cause issue. The district court found Peterson guilty of count one--the possession charge, and count two--the importing charge, was dismissed. Peterson now appeals from the probable cause determination.


When reviewing a pretrial order suppressing evidence, where the facts are not in dispute and the district court's decision is a question of law, this 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 facts are not in dispute in this matter, rather Peterson is arguing that, as a matter of law, his warrantless arrest was not supported by probable cause. Where police arrest a suspect without a warrant, the reviewing court looks at whether, under the particular circumstances, the officers

conditioned by their own observations and information and guided by the whole of their police experience, reasonably could have believed that a crime had been committed by the person to be arrested.

State v. Olson, 436 N.W.2d 92, 94 (Minn. 1989) (citing State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 108 (Minn. 1978)). Factual inferences supplied by reliable informants may supply probable cause needed for a warrantless arrest. See id. at 95 (reasoning that a reliable tip, together with physical evidence, may supply probable cause for an arrest without a warrant); see also State v. Eling, 355 N.W.2d 286, 290-91 (Minn. 1984) (concluding that information obtained from a reliable informant provided sufficient probable cause to support a warrantless arrest).

The Minnesota Supreme Court has adopted the United States Supreme Court's "totality of the circumstances" test for determining whether probable cause exists. State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 268 (Minn. 1985) (citing Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2332 (1983)). Where a probable cause determination is based on an informant's tip, the informant's veracity and the basis of his or her knowledge are considerations under the totality test. Olson, 436 N.W.2d at 95 (citing Gates, 462 U.S. at 238, 103 S. Ct. at 2332). Most cases in this area involve whether an officer's affidavit provided a magistrate with a sufficient basis to determine the veracity of the informant. Because Peterson is not disputing the application for the warrant, but rather the underlying arrest, the only issue for this court is to determine the veracity of the informant's tip in supplying probable cause for a warrantless arrest.

Minnesota cases have outlined numerous factors that may be considered in determining the reliability of an informant's tip. First, this court can consider whether the informant's statement was in some manner against his or her interest. State v. McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d 700, 704 (Minn. 1990). Although this factor has "minimal relevance in a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis of probable cause," where there is some independent corroboration of even some minor details of the information provided by the informant, this factor may tip the balance in favor of finding sufficient probable cause. Id. Here, it can be said that the informant's statement was against his interest because he told Deputy Seibert that he and his friend would "beat" Peterson "with a bat," if the police failed to act.

Further, prior to Peterson's arrest, the police were able to corroborate certain information provided by the informant. The police corroborated the following: (1) the man in the photograph supplied by the informant was Peterson; (2) Peterson's mother had recently died; (3) Peterson had been living in his mother's home; (4) a train, coming from Milwaukee, was expected in at the Amtrak station at 6:48 p.m.; (5) a man matching Peterson's description and photograph exited the train from Milwaukee; (6) the man was carrying a duffel bag; (7) the man responded to the name "Rockney;" and (8) when asked, the man stated that he was Rockney Peterson. The only part of the tip not corroborated was that having to do with the alleged rape. This information, however, was immaterial to the drug charges. Moreover, an informant's reliability may be established by sufficient police corroboration of even minor details where the informant has provided reliable information in the past. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d at 269. Here, all of the details relevant to the drug charges were corroborated.

Additionally, "face-to-face" meetings between an informant and law enforcement are significant and tend to indicate reliability. McCloskey, 453 N.W.2d at 703. Here, not only did the informant personally meet with Deputy Seibert, but his identity was also known to Deputy Seibert. Similarly, reliability increases when the informant has previously supplied accurate information to the police. State v. Siegfried, 274 N.W.2d 113, 114-15 (Minn. 1978). In the affidavit supporting the application for a warrant to search Peterson's duffel bag, the affiant, Officer Tom Williams, stated that the informant had previously supplied information to the Winona Police Department, which led to multiple arrests and convictions. This affidavit was before the court at the time of the omnibus hearing and was sufficient for the court to conclude that the informant had provided reliable information in the past. Thus, the informant's past record, known to Deputy Seibert at the time he received the information on Peterson, enhanced the reliability of the informant's tip.

In considering the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the officers' independent corroboration of the relevant details of the informant's tip, taken together with the other factors indicating the veracity of the informant, provided sufficient probable cause for the officers to arrest Peterson without a warrant.