This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Dale Edward Jones,
Filed November 23, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 98059359
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park St., Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Ctr., Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Forsberg, Judge,[*] and Mulally, Judge.[**]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
A jury convicted appellant Dale Edward Jones of possessing a pistol in violation of Minn. Stat. ß 624.713 (1998). Jones challenges the trial courtís failure to suppress post-arrest statements he made to police on the grounds that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. Jones also contends the evidence was insufficient to support the juryís finding of guilt. Because the police had probable cause to arrest Jones and because the evidence was sufficient to support a guilty verdict, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
1. Probable Cause to Arrest
The test for probable cause to arrest is
whether an officer in the particular circumstances, conditioned by his own observations and information, and guided by the whole of his police experience, reasonably could have believed that a crime had been committed by the person to be arrested.
State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 108 (Minn. 1978) (quotation omitted). This court independently reviews the facts of the case to determine whether the police conduct was reasonable. State v. Riley, 568 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Minn. 1997).
A review of the facts shows that the arresting officers reasonably could have believed that Jones possessed the handgun found in the vehicle in which he was a passenger. Mere presence in a vehicle containing contraband may be insufficient to support an arrest for possession. State v. Albino, 384 N.W.2d 525, 527 (Minn. App. 1986). But here, other facts relating to the position of the gun led to the conclusion that it had been placed under the driverís seat by the left rear passenger, Jones. The gun handle was pointing towards the left rear passenger seat, with the barrel pointing towards the front of the vehicle. In addition, a tire iron blocked access to the gun from the front seat, and the seat blocked access to the gun from the sides. Under these circumstances, the police reasonably could have concluded that Jones had constructive possession of the gun.
2. Sufficiency of the Evidence
In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, this court must determine whether, in light of the record and the inferences that can be drawn from the facts therein, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Wallace, 558 N.W.2d 469, 472 (Minn. 1997); State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988). This court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the stateís case and must assume that the jury believed the stateís witnesses and disbelieved any contrary evidence. State v. Drieman, 457 N.W.2d 703, 711 (Minn. 1990).
The only issue for the jury to decide was whether Jones possessed the gun. On that issue, the state presented evidence of the positioning of the gun under the seat in front of where Jones had been sitting. The state also presented conflicting statements by Jones in which he first denied any knowledge of the gun and later admitted to pushing it under the seat. Finally, and most importantly, the jury heard the eyewitness testimony of another passenger in the vehicle who testified that she saw the gun on Jonesís lap. The evidence is sufficient to support Jonesís conviction.
Affirmed.[*] 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 by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.