Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-10-25214
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Benjamin J. Butler, Assistant Public Defender, George David Kidd, Certified Student Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.
We affirm appellant's conviction of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm because the district court did not err by denying appellant's motion to suppress evidence seized during the inventory search of his vehicle. We decline to rule on the issue of whether the inventory search was permissibly conducted pursuant to standardized procedures because the issue was not raised before the district court.
On June 1, 2010, at approximately 11:15 p.m., Maple Grove Police Officer Adam Marinello observed a vehicle violate several traffic laws near and on Interstate 94. Officer Marinello initiated a stop and the driver parked his vehicle along an exit ramp, with the front of the vehicle in the exit lane. Officer Marinello approached the vehicle and observed that the driver, subsequently identified as appellant Matthew Allen Wendland, was the sole occupant. Officer Marinello ran Wendland's name through the law enforcement database and, upon learning that Wendland's driver's license was suspended, indicated that he was going to impound the vehicle. Wendland advised Officer Marinello that he had a licensed driver available to safely park the vehicle who was "not even five minutes away, " but because the vehicle was partially in a lane of traffic, and it was dark and pouring rain, Officer Marinello decided to impound the vehicle.
Wendland was placed in the back of Officer Marinello's squad car. Officer Marinello and an accompanying officer then conducted an inventory search of Wendland's impounded vehicle to ensure any private property in the vehicle was recorded before the vehicle was towed. The search produced a small baggy of marijuana, a colored glass pipe, a .380-caliber bullet, and―inside a work glove in the passenger seat's back pouch―a gun. Based on a 1991 felony conviction, Wendland was charged with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2) (2008).
Wendland moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the inventory search, arguing that Officer Marinello lacked authority to impound his vehicle. The district court denied Wendland's motion to suppress, finding that impoundment was proper because the vehicle constituted a safety hazard. Wendland agreed to a trial on stipulated facts, thereby preserving the suppression issue for appeal. The district court found Wendland guilty of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and sentenced him to 60 months' imprisonment, but stayed execution of the sentence and placed Wendland on probation for five years. This appeal followed.
Wendland challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during the inventory search of his vehicle. "When reviewing a district court's pretrial order on a motion to suppress evidence, we review the district court's factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard and the district court's legal determinations de novo." State v. Gauster, 752 N.W.2d 496, 502 (Minn. 2008) (quotation omitted). We independently review the facts not in dispute and determine, as a ...