Becker County District Court File No. K7001090
Considered and decided by Randall Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge,*fn1
A driver does not have authority to consent to the search of a vehicle passenger's suitcase located in the trunk of the vehicle.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge
On appeal from a conviction of a second-degree controlled substance crime, appellant Anthony Lee Frank argues that (1) the district court erred as a matter of law by denying appellant's motion to suppress evidence that the police seized during a search of appellant's suitcase located in the trunk of the vehicle in which appellant was a passenger; (2) the police officer that stopped the vehicle, in which appellant was riding, illegally seized appellant; and (3) the taint of the illegal seizure was not removed by manifestly voluntary consent. Because the search of appellant's suitcase was an illegal search, we reverse.
Detroit Lakes Police Officer Mike Engum stopped a vehicle that was owned and driven by S.J. because it had only one working headlight. Appellant and another person were passengers in the vehicle. Officer Engum, noting that the driver was from the Twin Cities, asked the driver about the group's destination. The driver told Officer Engum that they were going to see a relative, C.O., but that they couldn't find her home with the address that she had given to them.
Officer Engum was familiar with C.O. He knew where she lived because he had received a complaint about drug use and sale at her residence and he had performed a welfare check at her home. Officer Engum wrote a "fix-it" ticket to the driver for the headlight, separated the individuals in the car, and questioned them further. The officer became suspicious when the answers of the three individuals varied.
Out of appellant's hearing, Officer Engum asked S.J. for permission to search the vehicle for "multiple things, bodies, weapons, guns, drugs." S.J. consented to a search of the vehicle. After searching all but the area of the backseat where the other passenger remained seated, Officer Engum opened the trunk of the vehicle and found two suitcases in the trunk. Officer Engum did not ask who owned the suitcases and did not ask permission from the passengers to search the suitcases.*fn2 He searched a suitcase and found what appeared to be controlled substances and a handgun. After the search, the officer learned that the suitcase in question belonged to appellant.
Officer Engum then completed the search of the backseat and found more controlled substances in that area. A total of ten grams of rock cocaine and twelve grams of powder cocaine were found in the vehicle. Approximately half of the controlled substances were found in appellant's suitcase. Appellant conceded that he knew that there were controlled substances in his suitcase.
Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant with committing a controlled substance crime in the second degree in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.022, subd. 2, 609.05, subds. 1, 2 (2000). Appellant moved to suppress "all controlled substance evidence obtained from the search of the vehicle." The district court denied the motion. The district court, on a stipulated record, found appellant guilty of committing a controlled substance crime in the second degree and sentenced appellant to the custody of the Commissioner of ...