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State v. Fitzpatrick

December 28, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
KAREN KAY FITZPATRICK, APPELLANT.



Blue Earth County District Court File No. K4-02-2043.

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Willis, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. A law-enforcement compliance check that uses an undercover, underage person to purchase alcoholic beverages does not, without more, violate the due-process rights of a person who sells to the underage purchaser.

2. The absence of an exception in Minn. Stat. § 340.503, subd. 2(2) (2002), that permits the purchase of alcoholic beverages for enforcement purposes does not evince a legislative intent to prohibit law enforcement from using an undercover, underage purchaser in conducting compliance checks.

3. Constitutional principles relating to unreasonable searches and seizures are not applicable to a law-enforcement compliance check that uses an undercover, underage person to purchase alcoholic beverages from an alcoholic-beverage retailer.

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

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellant Karen Kay Fitzpatrick challenges her conviction of providing alcoholic beverages to a minor, arguing that Blue Earth County's compliance check violated both her due-process rights and Minnesota's statute prohibiting the underage purchase of alcoholic beverages. Because the district court did not err by concluding that the due-process defense arising from government overinvolvement in the prohibited activity was not available to Fitzpatrick; because we cannot infer a legislative intent to prohibit the type of compliance check at issue; and because there is no authority to suggest that constitutional principles regarding the reasonableness of searches and seizures apply, we affirm.

FACTS

In May 2002, the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office conducted a compliance check regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors at Jack's Bar & Grill in Good Thunder, Minnesota. The sheriff's office used a 19-year-old undercover purchaser, wired him with audio-surveillance equipment, gave him a 20-dollar bill, and sent him into the bar to attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages. The underage purchaser wore a khaki cap with blue cursive writing that identified him as a member of the "Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office Alcohol Compliance Team." Detective Willis Purvis and a colleague instructed the underage purchaser to produce identification showing his true age at the bartender's request.

The underage purchaser entered the bar and asked to buy a 12-pack of beer from appellant Karen Kay Fitzpatrick. Without asking for identification, Fitzpatrick made the sale, and the underage purchaser left the bar with the beer. After taking possession of the beer, the detectives entered the bar. Fitzpatrick admitted to the sale, and the officers verified that the 20-dollar bill used in the sale was the one that they had given to the underage purchaser. Fitzpatrick was charged with providing alcoholic beverages to a minor. She subsequently moved to dismiss the charge.

At a contested omnibus hearing in March 2003, Detective Purvis testified that the sheriff's office had been conducting the compliance checks since 1997 or 1998. He testified that minor consumption of alcoholic beverages is a significant problem in Blue Earth County and that the reason for conducting compliance checks was to raise awareness of the problem among alcoholic-beverage retailers and to keep alcoholic beverages out of the hands of minors.

Purvis testified that, on average, the sheriff's office conducts compliance checks at every alcoholic-beverage retailer in Blue Earth County twice annually. He further testified that, generally, the sheriff's office does not have any particularized suspicion of criminal activity before conducting a compliance check. He stated that in this case the sheriff's office had no specific suspicion that Fitzpatrick was selling alcoholic beverages to minors but that ...


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