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State v. Ruoho

August 17, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, APPELLANT,
v.
WAYNE LAWRENCE RUOHO, RESPONDENT (A03-2015), JACQUELINE FRANCIS KNUTSON, RESPONDENT (A03-2016).



Crow Wing County District Court. File No. K7-02-1753.

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

I. For purposes of establishing probable cause to issue a search warrant, the required nexus between the place to be searched and the items to be seized need not rest on direct observations or first-hand evidence of criminal activity at the place to be searched; instead, probable cause may be inferred from the circumstances, including the nature of the alleged crime, the nature of the items to be seized, the extent of an opportunity for concealment, and reasonable assumptions about where a suspect is likely to keep evidence.

II. In the absence of probable cause to arrest, the off-premises seizure of a person under the limited authority to detain implied in a search warrant is unlawful, unless the seizure is necessary to prevent flight, to minimize the risk of harm posed by the search to the officers executing the warrant, or to facilitate the search.

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

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

OPINION

This is a consolidated appeal by the prosecution from a pretrial order suppressing evidence obtained during a warrant-authorized search of Wayne Ruoho and Jacqueline Knutson's rental unit and dismissing criminal charges. The state argues that the district court erred in concluding that the affidavit offered in support of the warrant failed to establish a nexus between the alleged crimes and the unit to be searched sufficient to support a finding of probable cause. Alternatively, the state argues that the district court erred in concluding that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply. By notice of review, Knutson challenges the legality of her off-premises seizure. Because we conclude that the affidavit offered in support of the warrant established a sufficient nexus between the alleged crimes and the unit to be searched, we reverse the district court's decision to suppress evidence obtained during the premises search and to dismiss charges based on that evidence. But because we conclude that Knutson was improperly seized under the limited authority to detain implied in the search warrant, we affirm the district court's decision to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the seizure.

FACTS

A narcotics agent with the Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division obtained a search warrant on July 16, 2002, for rental unit 12 at Deacon's Lodge, a vacation resort. The warrant authorized the search of the premises and the people residing in the premises for evidence of drug dealing, including controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, address books, cash, records, and cellular phones.

The affidavit offered in support of the warrant indicated that on July 15, 2002, the agent was contacted by a Breezy Point police officer. The officer told the agent that the manager of Grand View Lodge, the company that manages Deacon's Lodge, had contacted him and told him that since June 23, 2002, Wayne Ruoho had been staying in Deacon Lodge's unit 3 with Jacqueline Knutson and their four children. According to the manager, people had reported seeing numerous vehicles coming to and leaving from unit 3. The agent indicated that based on his training and experience, he knew that high traffic volume is common at places where narcotics are distributed.

The affidavit also indicated that Ruoho had large amounts of cash on his person and paid only in cash. According to the agent, on July 2, a second Breezy Point police officer responded to a property-damage complaint involving Ruoho's daughters and saw Ruoho pay the victim $300 in cash. He also saw several $100 bills in Ruoho's wallet, possibly totaling $1,000. The agent indicated that based on his training and experience, he knew that people who distribute narcotics commonly have large amounts of cash in their possession and pay only in cash to conceal their identity.

Because unit 3 had been rented to another tenant starting on July 13, Ruoho and Knutson moved from unit 3 to unit 12 on July 12, 2002. According to the supporting affidavit, Ruoho and Knutson had refused housekeeping services during their stay in unit 3. But the housekeeper who cleaned unit 3 on July 12, presumably in preparation for the next tenant, saw a white powder on a mirror in one of the bedrooms. The Breezy Point police officer who walked through unit 3 after Ruoho and Knutson moved out stated that the unit smelled like marijuana and that he saw a leafy substance and seeds he believed to be marijuana. He also saw blankets over the windows and ink-pen parts throughout the unit. On a table in the basement, the officer saw white-powder residue. The agent indicated that based on his training and experience, he knew that people who distribute narcotics from rental units commonly refuse housekeeping services and keep the blinds drawn to conceal their activities. He also knew that people who consume narcotics in powder form often use mirrors or glass plates and hollow tubes from ink pens for snorting.

The affidavit also indicated that Ruoho had been convicted of narcotics charges in 1990, 1992, and 1993 and had served time for those convictions.

The warrant authorizing the search of unit 12 was issued on July 16 and was executed on the same day. The search started at approximately 2:23 p.m. and lasted approximately two hours. At the beginning of the search, officers found male and female adult clothing, documents with Knutson's name, and more than ...


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