may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Marko Henry Garofalo,
Filed July 29, 1997
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K996539
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, Ramsey County Govt. Center-West, 50 West Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Evan W. Jones, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]
Marko Garofalo was arrested and charged with one count of fifth degree controlled substance possession in violation Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subds. 2(1), 3(a) (1996). Garofalo moved to suppress evidence of the drugs and to dismiss the charge. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the disputed stop was based on an articulated and reasonable belief that Garofalo was the person named in a signed search warrant that the police were about to serve. Garofalo appeals his conviction, contending it is based on evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
D E C I S I O N
Police officers may stop individuals for the limited purpose of ascertaining identity so long as "the officers have specific and articulable facts objectively establishing reasonable suspicion." State v. Sanders, 339 N.W.2d 557, 560 (Minn. 1983) (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418-19, 101 S. Ct. 690, 695 (1981)). In this case, the validity of the stop and the admissibility of the drugs discovered in the protective search depends on whether the police reasonably believed that Garofalo was the person identified in the search warrant. Garofalo does not dispute the district court's factual findings, but argues that the established facts do not support a reasonable belief that he was the individual identified in the search warrant. When material facts are undisputed, an appellate court reviews de novo a district court's decision to suppress. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
The warrant authorized the search of the apartment and the occupant of the apartment, a person other than Garofalo. The warrant described the occupant as a white male in his early forties. Garofalo is white, in his early forties, and was observed entering the apartment described in the search warrant. Garofalo did not wait or knock before entering the unlighted apartment, and the police officer saw no lights while Garofalo was in the apartment. He reappeared within a few minutes and began to drive away. The officer observing Garofalo's entry and exit radioed instructions to stop the vehicle because he believed the apartment's occupant was leaving the area.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld the validity of a stop in which the police mistakenly believed that the person stopped was identified in a warrant. Sanders, 339 N.W.2d at 560. The court concluded that the investigating officer had a mistaken but reasonable suspicion that the person stopped was the person named in the warrant because of similarity of facial structure, stature, race, and because he was driving a vehicle consistent with the description in the warrant. Id. But the supreme court has rejected the validity of an investigatory stop resulting from misidentification when the person stopped did not have characteristics similar to the person named in the warrant. State v. Frazier, 318 N.W.2d 42 (Minn. 1982) In Frazier the court concluded that officers acted unreasonably in mistakenly identifying a woman who was shorter, proportionately heavier, nearly twice as old, had two prominent scars on her face, and was not apprehended at the residence of the person named in the warrant. Id. at 44.
The facts in this case are similar to the facts in Sanders and are distinguishable from those in Frazier. Garofalo's physical description matched the information in the warrant. He was observed at the apartment described in the warrant, and he entered the unlighted apartment without waiting or knocking. The officer observing Garofalo's activities logically inferred that he resided in the apartment. The district court did not err when it ruled that the police could have reasonably, albeit mistakenly, believed that Garofalo was the individual named in the search warrant. See Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 804, 91 S. Ct. 1106, 1111 (1971) ("[S]ufficient probability, not certainty, is the touchstone of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment * * * .").
[ ]* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.