County District Court File No. K8-03-17
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and
Police do not need reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct a narcotics dog sniff around the exterior of a lawfully impounded vehicle.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake, Judge
Reversed and remanded; motion granted
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges a pretrial order issued by the district court that suppressed evidence found during the search of a vehicle driven by respondent Ralland Isadore Kolb and resulted in the dismissal of controlled substance charges against respondent. The state argues that the district court clearly erred in ruling that police, who ordered respondent's car towed because he did not have a valid license, needed reasonable, articulable suspicion of drug-related activity to conduct a dog sniff of the exterior of the vehicle after impoundment. Because police do not need reasonable, articulable suspicion to order a dog sniff of a lawfully impounded vehicle, we reverse and remand.
Because respondent is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and expenses when responding to a pretrial prosecution appeal, regardless of the outcome, and counsel's request is reasonable, we grant respondent's motion for attorney fees.
On November 24, 2002, Trooper Ryan Siegle of the Minnesota Highway Patrol, stopped respondent because the vehicle he was driving had very dark tinted windows, an equipment violation. Respondent admitted to the trooper that he did not have a license, and the trooper learned from dispatch that respondent's license was cancelled as inimical to public safety. The trooper arrested respondent, transported him to the Mower County Law Enforcement Center, and had the vehicle towed to the impound lot. The trooper later learned that the vehicle was registered to respondent's girlfriend.
The trooper testified that while driving to the jail, respondent went "from being angry to kind of happy to not caring about what was going to happen to him" and remained that way upon arrival at the jail. He stated that respondent seemed to care only about his car. Respondent asked when he could get his car, where it was going, and when his girlfriend could pick it up. The trooper testified that respondent's extreme concern about the car "raised some suspicions" that "there was something in the vehicle that [respondent] was worried about." The trooper did not observe any indicia of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol, bloodshot or watery eyes, or dilated pupils; nor did the trooper suspect that respondent was under the influence of any other controlled substance.
During the booking procedure, a woman entered the jail and identified herself as respondent's girlfriend. She asked about the car and a cell phone in the car, and whether she could take the car. She did not ask about respondent, what he was being charged with, or when he would be released.
At some point, another officer informed the trooper of respondent's possible prior involvement in drug activities. After respondent was booked, the trooper checked respondent's local criminal history, which showed a 1984 conviction for a controlled substance offense. The trooper was at the end of his shift and could not reach the chief deputy before he left to inquire about conducting a dog sniff of the vehicle that day.
When the trooper arrived at work the next day, he spoke to the chief deputy, explained his suspicions, and asked that a certified narcotics dog perform an exterior sniff of the car. No illegal substances had been found when a roadside cursory inventory search for large and personal effects had been performed. The chief deputy reported to the trooper that the dog "hit" on the driver's door of the vehicle. A search warrant was obtained based on the dog sniff, respondent's mood swings, his prior drug conviction, and his inquiries regarding the release of the car. ...