State v. Allinder, No. A08-0068 (Minn. App. 2/10/2009), No. A08-0068

CourtCourt of Appeals of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtKalitowski
PartiesState of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Courtney James Allinder, Appellant.
Decision Date10 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. A08-0068

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State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Courtney James Allinder, Appellant.
No. A08-0068
Court of Appeals of Minnesota.
Filed February 10, 2009.

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2008).

Appeal from the District Court, Kandiyohi County, File No. 34-CR-06-2469.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Kristi Nielsen, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, MN and Boyd Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney, Willmar, MN (for respondent)

Todd V. Peterson, St. Cloud, MN (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

KALITOWSKI, Judge


Appellant Courtney James Allinder challenges his convictions and sentence, contending that the warrantless searches of his vehicle and backpack were illegal and

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consequently, the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the searches. Because we conclude that the searches of appellant's vehicle and backpack were lawful pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.

DECISION

On December 18, 2006, appellant was charged with fifth-degree controlled substance offense for possessing 817 grams or more of marijuana in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subds. 2(1) and 3(a) (2006), and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.092 (2006). At his pretrial omnibus hearing, appellant argued that the warrantless searches of his vehicle and backpack were illegal and consequently, the evidence obtained from the searches—marijuana and drug paraphernalia—should be suppressed. The district court denied appellant's motion to suppress, concluding that although appellant did not consent to the searches, (1) appellant's vehicle was lawfully stopped; (2) the searches of appellant's vehicle and backpack were incident to a lawful arrest; and (3) the warrantless search of appellant's vehicle was lawful pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and agreed to a stipulated facts trial. After the district court found appellant guilty of both counts, appellant brought this appeal, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

"When reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we may independently review the facts and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressing — or not suppressing — the evidence." State v. Harris, 590

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N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999). We review de novo whether a search or seizure is justified by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. State v. Burbach, 706 N.W.2d 484, 487 (Minn. 2005). And we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error. Id.

Before examining the search and seizure of the contraband, we must analyze the stop that led to its discovery. In re Welfare G.M., 560 N.W.2d 687, 690 (Minn. 1995); State v. Schinzing, 342 N.W.2d 105, 109 (Minn. 1983). "A brief investigatory stop requires only reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than probable cause." State v. Martinson, 581 N.W.2d 846, 850 (Minn. 1998) (citations omitted). And in determining whether the stop was lawful, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances. Engwer v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 383 N.W.2d 418, 419 (Minn. App. 1986).

The Warrantless Search

Before stopping the vehicle driven by appellant, a Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputy determined by radar that the vehicle was traveling in excess of the speed limit and saw that the vehicle was missing its front license plate. Because the deputy observed two violations of Minnesota traffic laws, we conclude that there was a valid, objective basis for stopping appellant's vehicle, and that the stop was lawfully based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

As the deputy approached the passenger side of the vehicle, he noticed an "extremely strong pungent odor of burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle's interior." The deputy also noticed that appellant's eyes appeared "a little glazed over and had some marked reddening, which is common with cannabis use." The deputy asked appellant

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what was causing the odor and how much marijuana was in the vehicle. Appellant admitted that he had smoked marijuana while driving and that he had a marijuana pipe in his pocket. The deputy then asked appellant to exit the vehicle and conducted a patdown search of appellant's person and removed a marijuana pipe from his jacket pocket. The record indicates that the bowl of the pipe contained a small amount of burnt marijuana and that after the patdown search the deputy placed appellant in the back seat of his squad car.

The deputy conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle. He did not discover any contraband around the driver's seat and area, but noticed a backpack behind the front right passenger seat that was within the driver's reach. The deputy stated...

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