Anoka County District Court File No. 02-CR-12-6701
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Anthony C. Palumbo, Anoka County Attorney, C. Donald LeBaron, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka, Minnesota (for respondent)
Adam T. Johnson, Meshbesher & Associates, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Hooten, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
Police may impound a vehicle for revoked license registration and plates, and for no insurance, when the driver does not ask to make her own towing arrangements.
Appellant challenges the district court's denial of her motion to suppress, arguing that the inventory search of her vehicle was unconstitutional because (1) the police had no legitimate reason to impound her vehicle and (2) the search was pretextual. We affirm.
While working undercover on the afternoon of September 11, 2012, based on information received from Blaine Police Officer Hawley, Blaine Police Officer Koch conducted surveillance of a residence where individuals were suspected of possible drug trafficking. Officer Hawley told Officer Koch that an individual might be driving a Monte Carlo with multiple people inside, and Officer Hawley provided a license-plate number. Shortly after 4:10 p.m., Officer Koch saw a vehicle that matched the description leave the driveway of the residence, but the license plate did not match the number provided. Officer Koch ran the vehicle's license plate through his mobile data unit and learned that the license registration and the registered owner's driver's license were revoked. The registered owner was appellant Erica Rohde. Officer Koch also learned from his mobile data unit that, when Rohde was arrested in March 2011, she was in possession of drugs.
Officer Koch suspected that Rohde's vehicle might contain controlled substances; contacted Blaine Police Officer Champagne, a uniformed officer; and requested that he stop the vehicle. Officer Champagne followed the vehicle, observed it commit a signaling violation, confirmed that the driver matched the description provided by Officer Koch, and initiated a stop. The vehicle stopped on a two-way residential street and did not impede traffic, violate any parking laws, or block access to any business or residence on the street. After identifying Rohde by her Minnesota driver's license, Officer Champagne told her that he stopped her vehicle because of the signaling violation and revoked license plates. Rohde stated that she did not have insurance on the vehicle. Officer Champagne told Rohde that he probably would tow the vehicle and that Blaine police department policy required him to conduct an inventory search of it.
As Rohde stepped out of her vehicle, she asked Officer Champagne whether she was under arrest, and he responded that she was "technically" under arrest because she was not free to leave. Within the next few minutes, Officer Champagne asked Rohde to sit in the back of his squad car, where Rohde asked Officer Champagne whether her mother could come to the scene and pick her up. Officer Champagne said she could and provided Rohde with his cell phone so that she could call her mother. Rohde was unable to reach her mother and appeared concerned about picking up her child from preschool. At no time did she ask whether she could arrange to have her vehicle towed.
Officer Koch arrived at the scene, began an inventory search of the vehicle, and opened a purse located on the passenger seat that had a black zipper bag inside. That bag contained two small plastic bags of a substance that Officer Koch suspected was methamphetamine. Officer Koch also found two glass pipes used to smoke methamphetamine. Respondent State of Minnesota charged Rohde with one count of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, a felony, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty misdemeanor. At a contested omnibus hearing, Rohde moved to suppress the physical evidence ...