County District Court File No. 27-CR-15-15669.
Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael
O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny,
Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jodi
Lynn Proulx, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Jesson,
Judge; and Smith, John, Judge.
Statute § 504B.211, subd. 4(1), (3) (2016) gives
property managers limited rights of entry, not rights of use,
and therefore does not confer authority to consent to a
search of the leased premises.
JOHN, Judge [*]
challenges his conviction of fifth-degree possession of a
controlled substance in violation of Minn. Stat. §
152.025, subd. 2(a)(1) (2014), arguing that the conviction
must be reversed because police entered the apartment where
he was staying without lawful justification, detained him
without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and
arrested him without probable cause. Because we conclude that
Minn. Stat. § 504B.211 does not give a landlord or
property manager rights of use to a leased property, police
did not obtain valid consent to enter the apartment, and no
exception to the warrant requirement applies, we reverse.
from two evidentiary hearings establishes that on June 9,
2015, J.C., property manager of Spruce Place apartments and
J.B., maintenance technician, noticed a water leak in the
maintenance shop of the apartment building. They believed the
water leak to be coming from apartment 2, so they went to the
apartment and J.C. knocked on the door. An unknown male
opened the door, invited J.C. and J.B. into the apartment,
and stated that he believed the leak was coming from the
inside the apartment, J.C. observed people in the bedroom,
one of whom had a needle up to his arm. J.C. also observed
used needles, a pipe, and a "marijuana machine-type
thing" later identified as a marijuana grinder. J.C.
then "went and got" J.B., who was looking at the
bathroom sink. They left the apartment, stating they would be
back later to fix the leak.
leaving the apartment, J.C. called the police and spoke with
Sergeant Poidinger. J.C. asked if police could remove the
people and the narcotics from the apartment. Sergeant
Poidinger stated he could not evict the people, but police
would "certainly take the narcotics investigation."
police arrived at the apartment complex, J.C. and J.B.
"re-entered the apartment to see if anyone was still
there." J.C. relied on a clause in the lease agreement
that allowed management to enter the apartment for purposes
of maintenance. After finding the apartment empty, J.C. told
police officers that they could enter the apartment. Sergeant
Poidinger entered the apartment, saw the drug paraphernalia,
called another officer to apply for a search warrant, and
froze the scene from inside the unit until a judge signed the
warrant. "Freezing the scene" means
guarding a potential crime scene to avoid evidence tampering.
Police froze the scene from inside the apartment because
officers "were already in the apartment, " there
were only three officers present, and the apartment had three
points of entry. No search occurred while the officers froze
the officers were inside the apartment, appellant Blake
Joseph Dotson, an overnight guest staying at the apartment,
used the security buzzer to be let into the apartment. One of
the officers buzzed Dotson into the building and, after
Dotson knocked, let him into the apartment. The officers
identified themselves and stated they were "executing a
search warrant." The officers asked Dotson if he had any
weapons in his possession. Dotson stated that he had a knife
in his pocket, and he put his hand into his pants pocket. One
of the officers grabbed Dotson's hand and removed the
knife from his pocket. The knife was approximately five to
six inches long. Police also noted that Dotson appeared
"homeless, " had a full backpack, and was nervous.
the encounter with Dotson, someone else knocked on the
apartment door. Before the officers could answer the door,
Dotson yelled out, "They're doing a search warrant
in here." Officers escorted Dotson away from the door,
pushed him down on a couch, and handcuffed him. Dotson was
arrested for obstructing the legal process.
to the arrest, police searched Dotson and in his wallet found
a small, white piece of paper with a bulge in it. Police
opened the paper and found "a crystal like substance
that I believed to be Methamphetamine." The substance
field-tested positive for methamphetamine. Dotson was charged
with felony-level fifth-degree controlled-substance crime
filed a pretrial motion to suppress the methamphetamine,
arguing that: the officers' entry into the apartment was
unlawful; police lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him;
and probable cause to arrest him. The district court denied
the motion, concluding that the lease gave J.C. authority to
enter the apartment without notice and to allow the police
inside, and that police had both reasonable suspicion and
probable cause to detain and arrest Dotson. Dotson filed a
motion to reconsider, arguing that the J.C. did not have
actual authority to permit police to enter the apartment
based on the lease because Minn. Stat. § 504B.211 does
not allow a tenant to waive the right to notice based on
provisions in a lease. The district court reconsidered its
decision, but ...