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State v. LaRose

December 16, 2003

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
FRANKLIN WILLIAM LAROSE, APPELLANT.



Cass County District Court File No. K3-01-835 & K1-00-1097

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge*fn1.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

To obtain subject-matter jurisdiction over a controlled substance possession offense committed on an Indian reservation, the State of Minnesota has to show that the law is criminal/prohibitory in nature. Minnesota prohibits marijuana possession;*fn2 the state has authority to prosecute illegal drug possession on an Indian reservation pursuant to Public Law 280.

Public Law 280 does not prohibit cooperative agreements with Indian tribes. Upon finding that there was probable cause, a district court judge may issue a search warrant to a duly state-licensed peace officer employed by the law enforcement agency of a tribe.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randall, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

On consolidated appeals from separate convictions for felony fifth-degree controlled substance crime (possession of marijuana), appellant argues that the law against possessing marijuana is merely a civil/regulatory law and, thus, the State of Minnesota cannot enforce that law on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Appellant also argues that the search warrant in one of the two cases was improperly issued to a reservation peace officer.

Appellant further claims that the cooperative agreement between the state and reservation officers was invalid, and that, in any event, it did not authorize issuance of search warrants to tribal authorities. Because Minnesota prohibits all marijuana possession, the laws are criminal/prohibitory in nature and, therefore, the state has subject-matter jurisdiction. We find that the search warrant was properly issued to a reservation peace officer. We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Franklin William LaRose is an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and resides on the Leech Lake Reservation. On October 5, 2000, pursuant to a tip, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at appellant's home and searched for marijuana. During the search, officers found approximately 44 marijuana plants on appellant's property and several bags of marijuana in his home.

Appellant was charged in Cass County District Court with fifth-degree possession of marijuana, a felony. Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (2002). The district court denied appellant's motion to suppress the marijuana seized during the warranted search of his home and premises located within the Leech Lake Reservation boundaries. The district court also denied appellant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

After appellant unsuccessfully challenged the state's jurisdiction to enforce its marijuana-possession laws against tribal members on reservations, the parties agreed to try the case on stipulated facts. Appellant was present in court at this proceeding, but appellant did not personally waive his right to a jury trial. On June 26, 2001, the district court found appellant guilty of fifth-degree possession staying imposition of the sentence and placing appellant on probation for five years pending appeal. On appeal this court affirmed the district court's finding on subject-matter jurisdiction and remanded with directions to the district court to allow appellant to exercise or waive his right to a jury trial. Appellant renewed his jurisdictional challenge on remand.

On July 19, 2001, while the first case proceedings were underway, a second search warrant was issued for appellant's residence to Officer Victoria St. Cyr, a licensed Minnesota peace officer employed by the Leech Lake Department of Public Safety. When executing the search warrant the next day, officers seized a bag containing about one-quarter pound of marijuana from appellant's kitchen table. Appellant was subsequently charged with an additional count of fifth-degree controlled substance crime. In the second proceeding, appellant again challenged subject-matter jurisdiction and also claimed that the search warrant had not been authorized and was improperly issued to a tribal official.

The district court found that the Leech Lake Band had entered into a law enforcement compact with a number of counties, including Cass County, authorizing the Band to enforce criminal laws within the Leech Lake Reservation through the Leech Lake Department of Public Safety ("the Department"). As a licensed Minnesota peace officer and member of the Department, Officer St. Cyr had authority over criminal offenses committed on the reservation. Under this authority, Officer St. Cyr sought the search warrant from the Cass County District Court, which by virtue of Public Law 280 has jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed within the Leech Lake Reservation areas that lie within Cass County. The district court found no constitutional or statutory defect in the issuance of the warrant and denied appellant's motion to suppress.

By this time, the first case had been remanded, and the issue of appellant's right to a jury trial was back before the district court. Appellant now properly waived his right to a jury trial in both the first and second proceedings and submitted both cases to the district court for trial on stipulated facts. The court found appellant guilty. The court stayed imposition on the first case and placed appellant on probation for five years. On the second case, the court sentenced appellant to a stayed year-and-a-day prison term and five years probation. These appeals followed.

ISSUES

I. Does the State of Minnesota have subject-matter jurisdiction to enforce its possession of marijuana laws on the Leech Lake Reservation?

II. Did the district court determine correctly that a search warrant was properly issued to a Leech Lake Band Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Officer (a Minnesota licensed peace officer); was the evidence seized ...


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