Ramsey County District Court File No. K2011001
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge,
and Klaphake, Judge.
A police officer who arrests a driver and decides to impound the car reasonably may order the passenger, who acts extraordinarily nervously, appears under the influence, and smells of marijuana, to get out of the car; reasonably may ask the passenger if he has weapons or outstanding warrants; reasonably may frisk the passenger; reasonably may ask the passenger to sit in the squad car during a warrants check when the passenger hesitates in response to a question about warrants; and reasonably may search the passenger when the officer sees and feels a hard object that could be a weapon at the passenger's hip.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Appellant Elliot Doren contests the district court's pretrial order denying his motion to suppress evidence discovered during a traffic stop by a police officer while searching Doren, a passenger. Doren contends that the officer improperly extended the duration of the stop, had no basis for conducting two searches, and lacked a valid reason for having Doren sit in the officer's squad car during a warrants check. Because we conclude that the district court did not err in denying Doren's suppression motion, we affirm.
At about 1:15 in the morning of March 15, 2001, St. Paul police officer Soren Mahowald watched a car make two turns without signaling. Mahowald stopped the car, approached the driver's door, and asked the driver, Jason Olson, for his license and proof of insurance. Sitting in the front passenger seat was appellant Elliot Doren.
As Mahowald spoke with Doren, he could smell an odor of burned marijuana coming from inside the car. Mahowald also noticed that Doren's feet, arms, and hands were moving constantly, that his eyes were darting back and forth, and that he was eating a sandwich faster than Mahowald had ever seen one eaten before. The officer concluded that Doren's actions were "above and beyond the normal nervousness" he was accustomed to seeing during police stops.
When Mahowald discovered that Olson's license had been revoked, that Olson had no proof of insurance, and that the car was registered to a female whose address was in another city, Mahowald arrested Olson and placed him in the squad car. Mahowald then requested police backup.
During this time, Doren remained in the car. Mahowald went to the car and asked Doren for identification. After Doren produced identification, the officer asked him to step out of the car. As Doren stepped out of the car, the officer could tell that the burned marijuana odor was coming directly from him. Based on the odor, Doren's constant movements, and extraordinary nervousness, Mahowald concluded that Doren was under the influence of a controlled substance. When backup-officer Jeffrey Kane arrived, he also concluded that Doren was under the influence, based on Doren's "rock star behavior" and "he looked whipped out."
While Doren was standing outside the car, Mahowald asked him if he had any outstanding warrants for his arrest. Doren hesitated and then replied, "Ah, no." Then Mahowald asked him if he had any weapons, and he responded, "God, no." Mahowald asked Doren if he could pat him down for weapons and Doren consented. Mahowald frisked Doren and found nothing.
Doren's unusual behavior, the odor of burned marijuana, and his hesitation in answering the warrants question prompted Mahowald to investigate further. In Mahowald's police experience, persons who do have outstanding warrants ...