Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-19368
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean Burdorf, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Richard Schmitz, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
Appellant challenges his convictions of two controlled-substance offenses, arguing that police unlawfully seized a plastic bag containing heroin from his pocket. We affirm.
On June 28, 2011, Officer Karl Sauskojus stopped a vehicle in a high-crime area of Minneapolis after observing that a passenger in the vehicle was not wearing a seat belt and one of the brake lights was not functioning. Appellant Von Shane William Aune, the vehicle's driver, handed Officer Sauskojus his driver's license and permit to carry a handgun. Officer Sauskojus asked Aune whether he had a gun in the car, and Aune indicated that there was one in the glove compartment. Officer Sauskojus smelled a strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle.
Officer Sauskojus asked Aune to exit the vehicle. As he did, Aune reached down toward his right side. Officer Sauskojus was concerned that Aune had a weapon and decided to frisk him. When Officer Sauskojus began to frisk Aune, he saw a clear plastic baggie with a ripped corner sticking out of the right front coin pocket of Aune's pants.Based on his experience, Officer Sauskojus believed the baggie contained narcotics. Officer Sauskojus removed the baggie from Aune's pocket and saw that it contained a brown powder that resembled heroin. Aune admitted that the substance was heroin.
Aune was charged with third-degree sale and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. Aune moved to suppress evidence of the heroin. The district court denied the motion, and the parties submitted the case for a bench trial on stipulated facts pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found Aune guilty on both counts and sentenced him to 36 months' imprisonment. This appeal follows.
Aune challenges the denial of his suppression motion under the plain-view exception to the search-warrant requirement. When reviewing a pretrial order on a motion to suppress evidence, we independently review the facts to determine whether, as a matter of law, the district court erred by suppressing the evidence. State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999). We review the district court's factual findings for clear error and its legal determinations de novo. State v. Diede, 795 N.W.2d 836, 849 (Minn. 2011).
The United States and Minnesota Constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV; Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. Warrantless searches and seizures are presumed unreasonable unless they fall within an exception to the warrant requirement. Diede, 795 N.W.2d at 846. Evidence seized in violation of the ...