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State v. Bradley

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

March 5, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Traci Rankin Bradley, Appellant.

         Dakota County District Court File No. 19HA-CR-15-1608

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Ryan C. McCarthy, Assistant County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Sara L. Martin, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         A purse in a suspected shoplifter's possession at the time the suspect is detained by a merchant's employee remains immediately associated with the suspect's person, and the responding officer may search the purse along with the suspect incident to a lawful arrest when the officer knew or had reason to know the suspect possessed the purse at the time of detention.

          OPINION

          REYES, Judge

         Appellant challenges her convictions of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, arguing that the district court erred in denying her motion to suppress drug evidence found in her purse during a search incident to her arrest. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On May 20, 2015, at approximately 1:30 p.m., a store investigator at a grocery store observed appellant Traci Rankin Bradley pick up two food items from the deli area, carry them to a shopping aisle, place them in her purse, and exit the store without paying for the items. The investigator followed appellant outside, displayed his security badge, and told appellant that she needed to return to the store. Appellant refused. The investigator attempted to take appellant into custody, but appellant resisted. During the ensuing scuffle, appellant attempted to discard the items on the sidewalk and tried to hand her purse to a friend who had accompanied her to the store. The investigator took appellant's purse, stating that it was evidence of the crime, and, with the assistance of the store manager, handcuffed appellant and escorted her to the manager's office inside of the store along with her purse. The investigator seated appellant in a chair and placed her purse on top of the manager's desk. The manager then called the police.

         At 1:58 p.m., two police officers responded to the shoplifting call. Dispatch informed the officers that appellant also had outstanding warrants. One officer proceeded to the manager's office and spoke to the investigator and appellant. That officer arrested appellant and then searched her purse. The officer discovered suspected narcotics within a zipped compartment of appellant's purse, consisting of a baggie containing a white, powdery substance and a container with several pills. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension later determined that the baggie contained 0.932 grams of methadone and identified the assorted pills as hydromorphone, oxycodone, and lorazepam.

         Appellant was charged with two counts of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subds. 2(a)(1), 2(b)(2) (2014), and one count of misdemeanor theft, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subds. 2(a)(1), 3(5) (2014). Appellant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in her purse as the fruit of an unlawful search, which the district court denied. Appellant waived her right to a jury trial and agreed to a court trial to preserve for appellate review the pretrial suppression ruling. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found her guilty of all counts, entered judgment of conviction on all counts, and sentenced her to 21 months in prison on one count of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime. This appeal follows.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court err in determining that appellant's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated when the ...


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