Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-11-20726
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Stan Keillor, Special Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.
A Hennepin County jury found Joseph Collin Baggett guilty of third-degree possession of a controlled substance based on evidence that a police officer found crack cocaine in the center console of a vehicle Baggett was driving. On appeal, Baggett challenges his conviction on multiple grounds. We affirm.
On July 8, 2011, Sergeant Michael Harvey Young was on patrol in north Minneapolis. At 7:51 p.m., he received a dispatch call stating that a 911 caller had reported two vehicles making U-turns and chasing each other while brandishing firearms in the area of North 47th Avenue and Humboldt Avenue North. The caller described one vehicle as a Pontiac Grand Am and the other as a large beige SUV, either a Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe, with large after-market rims. The vehicles were reportedly traveling southbound. The caller said that three or four African Americans were inside the SUV.
Sergeant Young drove north toward the location described in the dispatch call. After about 15 minutes, he observed a beige-colored SUV with large after-market rims traveling eastbound through the intersection of North 42nd Avenue and Lyndale Avenue North, which is approximately one mile southeast of the area described in the 911 call. Sergeant Young could not discern how many people were in the car or their races. He followed the vehicle and called for back-up. The SUV made a left turn shortly thereafter, which allowed Sergeant Young to observe several African-American occupants inside.
Sergeant Young stopped the SUV at 8:11 p.m. He instructed the occupants to raise their hands and ordered the driver, Baggett, to turn off the engine. He then ordered Baggett out of the vehicle and handcuffed him. Other officers arrived and removed two men, one woman, and a child from the vehicle. All occupants of the SUV were African Americans. Sergeant Young performed a protective sweep of the vehicle. He did not find a firearm but found two baggies containing a substance he believed to be crack cocaine in the vehicle's center console.
In July 2011, the state charged Baggett with one count of third-degree possession of a controlled substance, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.023, subd. 2(a)(1) (2012). Before trial, Baggett moved to suppress evidence on the ground that Sergeant Young did not have a lawful reason to make the stop. The district court denied his motion.
The case went to trial in July 2012. The jury found Baggett guilty. The district court sentenced him to 33 months of imprisonment. Baggett appeals.
I. Motion to Suppress
Baggett first argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence. He contends that Sergeant Young did not have reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because there was not a sufficient likelihood that his SUV was the vehicle described by the 911 caller. If the relevant facts are undisputed, as they are in this case, this court applies a de novo standard of review to a district court's order on a motion to suppress. State v. Yang, 774 N.W.2d 539, 551 (Minn. 2009).
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV; see also Minn. Const. art. I, § 10. The Fourth Amendment also protects the right of the people to be secure in their motor vehicles. See State v. Britton, 604 N.W.2d 84, 87 (Minn. 2000).
As a general rule, a law enforcement officer may not seize and search a person or a person's vehicle without probable cause. State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 248 (Minn. 2007). A law enforcement officer may, however, "consistent with the Fourth Amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop" of a motor vehicle if "'the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.'" State v. Timberlake, 744 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 2008) (quoting Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123, 120 S.Ct. 673, 675 (2000) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1884 (1968))). A reasonable, articulable suspicion exists if, "in justifying the particular intrusion the police officer [is] able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion." Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. at 1880. The reasonable-suspicion standard is not high, but the suspicion must be more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion, " Timberlake, 744 N.W.2d at 393 (quotation omitted), and "something more than an unarticulated hunch, " State v. Davis, ...