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State v. Marsh

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 24, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Richard Ford Marsh, Appellant.

          Nicollet County District Court File No. 52-CR-17-468

          Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michelle M. Zehnder Fischer, Nicollet County Attorney, Megan E. Gaudette Coryell, Assistant County Attorney, St. Peter, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender; Holley C. Horell, Special Assistant Public Defender, Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

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

         SYLLABUS

         The validity of a search of a rented room, pursuant to a warrant authorizing the search of an entire house, depends on whether the officers knew or reasonably should have known that it was a multiple-occupancy house during the search.

          OPINION

          REYES, JUDGE

         In this direct appeal from a conviction of unlawfully possessing a firearm suppressor, appellant argues that evidence obtained as a result of the search must be suppressed because the search warrant was unconstitutionally overbroad and officers exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching his separately rented bedroom. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On November 16, 2017, Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force agents applied for and received a warrant to search a house on South Front Street in St. Peter, Minnesota.[1]Upon executing the search warrant, two agents approached the house and made contact with D.H.J., the registered occupant. D.H.J. informed them that another person was in the house, appellant Richard Ford Marsh. She also informed the agents that they would likely find methamphetamine in the residence.

         The agents went upstairs and found appellant behind a partially closed door in a bedroom. Agents had to "talk him out" of the room, as he initially refused to leave. Appellant exited the room, and the agents conducted a search. Agents found a digital scale, homemade smoking devices, glass pipes, a gun case with guns and ammunition, syringes, and plastic baggies. Agents also found three cylindrical objects in the room, which further investigation revealed were used homemade firearm suppressors.

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant with unlawful possession of a firearm suppressor, fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of hypodermic needles, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         Appellant moved to suppress the evidence gathered as a part of the search and to dismiss all charges for lack of probable cause. The district court held a contested omnibus hearing on the issue of whether the police had the authority to enter appellant's room as a part of their search of the house. D.B., a building administrator for the City of St. Peter, testified for the state, noting that transforming a traditional single-family house into a rental unit, or renting out a room, requires a rental license. He testified that D.H.J. had not registered the house as a rental unit with the city.

         Agent Isaacson, an agent involved in the search, also testified on behalf of the state. He described the outside of the house as a traditional, two-story house. When he entered the bottom floor, it included a kitchen, dining room, living room, and an open staircase leading to a second floor. Upon going up the stairs, the agents came upon an open area with a mini fridge and doors leading to bedrooms. Appellant's bedroom door was partially open, with a padlock on the outside. After talking with appellant, ...


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