This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Jerry Lamont Jackson,
Filed December 7, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 98021250
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Jay M. Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Scott R. L. Christenson, Assistant City Attorney, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55402-2453 (for respondent)
William McGee, Chief Hennepin County Public Defender, Stephen M. Simon, Assistant Public Defender, Michelle Peterson, Certified Student Attorney, University of Minnesota Law Clinics, 229 19th Avenue South, Suite 190, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Davies, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Jerry Lamont Jackson challenges the denial of his pretrial motion to suppress a gun seized during an investigative stop. Jackson, a passenger in a lawfully stopped vehicle, argues the police did not have a reasonable basis to conduct a pat search. We affirm.
The Minneapolis police stopped a vehicle with a cracked windshield and arrested the driver for driving with a suspended license. Planning to conduct an inventory search before towing the vehicle, the police ordered Jackson and another passenger out of the car. Officer Jason Reimer asked Jackson whether he had any weapons on him, and then conducted a pat search, finding a loaded .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol. The state charged Jackson with carrying a pistol without a permit in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 1 (1998). Jackson filed a motion to suppress the gun. The district court denied the motion, finding that Jackson was evasive when questioned about weapons and the evasive conduct occurred prior to the frisk.
D E C I S I O N
When reviewing search-and-seizure issues, this court accepts the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous, but independently applies the law to the facts. See Berge v. Commissioner of Pub. Safety, 374 N.W.2d 730, 732 (Minn. 1985). Here, Officer Reimer was entitled to order Jackson to get out of the vehicle. See Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 415, 117 S. Ct. 882, 886 (1997) (holding that "an officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop"). The issue is whether the subsequent pat search was justified. The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement officers from searching an individual without a warrant, subject to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions. State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 889 (Minn. 1998).
Under the protective-frisk exception, an officer may conduct a limited protective weapons frisk if the officer reasonably believes that the suspect might be armed and dangerous and capable of immediately causing permanent injury. Id. at 889 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1884-85 (1968)). The officer must have had specific, articulable grounds for his belief that the suspect may be armed and dangerous. See Wold v. State, 430 N.W.2d 171, 175 (Minn. 1988). The officer's determination is made "in light of his or her experience that criminal activity may be afoot." In re Welfare of G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 691 (Minn. 1997). Courts employ an objective standard to evaluate whether the facts available to the officer at the time of the search would warrant the belief by a person of reasonable caution that the action taken was appropriate. Wold, 430 N.W.2d at 175 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 21-22, 88 S. Ct. at 1880).
In this case, when Reimer questioned Jackson about weapons, Jackson nervously responded in an evasive manner, looking out of the corner of his eye and saying something to the effect of "no." Jackson's conduct raised a suspicion with Reimer based on his prior experience asking people whether they had weapons. Reimer's suspicion was heightened because the vehicle had been heading to a block where there had been numerous shots-fired calls. The evasive conduct and the vehicle's destination were factors supporting the belief that Jackson might be armed.
Jackson argues that there is little evidence of evasive conduct. At a Rasmussen hearing, Reimer testified for the state and Jackson presented no evidence. Reimer testified that Jackson acted in an evasive manner when questioned about weapons, raising the officer's suspicion. While the testimony may lack detail, the trial court's finding that Jackson was evasive is not clearly erroneous and this court must accept it as true. See Berge, 374 N.W.2d at 732.
Jackson points out that Reimer decided to conduct the pat search before Jackson acted evasively. But since we apply an objective standard, the officer's subjective motive is generally irrelevant. See Varnado, 582 N.W.2d at 892. We consider officer motive only where the basis for the search is a pretext. Id. In this case, the district court specifically found that there was no pretext.
Jackson argues that heading towards a high-crime area cannot justify a frisk. Our supreme court has explained that "without more, presence in a high-crime area is insufficient to justify a frisk after a lawful stop for a minor traffic violation." Id. at 890. Here, the high-crime destination was but one factor which, along with Jackson's evasive manner and Reimer's experience questioning people about weapons, provided a reasonably sufficient basis for the protective frisk.