State v. Carter, No. CX-95-1368

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtTOMLJANOVICH; STRINGER; KEITH; BLATZ
Citation569 N.W.2d 169
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Wayne Thomas CARTER, petitioner, Appellant.
Decision Date11 September 1997
Docket NumberNo. CX-95-1368

Page 169

569 N.W.2d 169
67 USLW 3153
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Wayne Thomas CARTER, petitioner, Appellant.
No. CX-95-1368.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Sept. 11, 1997.

Page 171

Syllabus by the Court

1. A person who had permission from the leaseholder to be in an apartment, collaborated with the leaseholder on a common task while in the apartment, and remained in the apartment for 2 1/2 hours, had standing to challenge the legality of a search of that apartment under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution.

2. It was a search when a police officer stepped off the sidewalk, walked across the grass, climbed behind some bushes, and looked into a ground floor apartment by peering through a gap in the closed window blinds from a distance of 12 to 18 inches.

3. Because the officer had neither probable cause nor a warrant, his search of the apartment was unreasonable.

Scott Swanson, Assistant State Public Defender, Minneapolis, for Appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, St. Paul, James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney by Phillip D. Prokopowicz, Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Hastings, for Respondent.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

TOMLJANOVICH, Justice.

By looking through the gaps in the closed blinds covering a window, a police officer observed the appellant, Wayne Thomas Carter, as he engaged in a drug-packaging operation with two other persons, one of whom was the leaseholder of the apartment. The district court held that Carter, who was an out-of-state visitor, did not present any evidence to establish his standing to contest the legality of the observation. The court also concluded that the officer did not conduct a search because he made the observations from an area where Carter did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court of appeals affirmed the district court, but based its holding only on the finding that Carter did not have standing to bring a motion to suppress any evidence obtained from the officer's observations. We reverse, and hold that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Carter had standing to challenge the legality of the observation. We further hold that the officer's observation rose to the level of a search, and that the officer's lack of probable cause and a warrant rendered the search unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution.

At approximately 8 p.m. on the evening of May 15, 1994, an anonymous informant approached Eagan police officer Jim Thielen. The informant, whom Thielen never had seen

Page 172

before, told Thielen that he/she 1 had walked by apartment 103 at 3943 South Valley View Drive and observed people sitting around a table inside the apartment "bagging" a white powder. The informant also told Thielen that he/she believed the occupants of the apartment had used a blue four-door Cadillac located in the parking lot adjacent to the apartment complex. The informant also told Thielen that the car had an Illinois license plate that read SGD 896. In response to this information, Thielen went to the complex and approached the ground floor window of apartment 103. Thielen then walked toward the window of the apartment by leaving the common sidewalk that led to the apartment building's entrance and stepping on a grassy common area closer to the window. Thielen then walked behind some short bushes located in front of the apartment window and stood approximately 12 to 18 inches from the window. The window's blinds were drawn closed, but gaps in the blinds allowed Thielen to observe activity in the apartment. While looking through the gaps in the blinds, Thielen observed two males and one female sitting at a kitchen table. One of the males appeared to be placing a white powdery substance onto the kitchen table. This person then would pass the white substance to the second male who then would place the powder into a plastic bag. The second male, who was wearing bedroom slippers, would in turn give the plastic bag to the female who would cut off the ends of the bag and place it on the table.

After observing this activity for approximately 15 minutes, Thielen left the apartment complex and went to a nearby fire station where he had another conversation with the informant and another Eagan police officer. At this time the informant told the officers that the people inside the apartment might be in possession of a gun. Thielen then returned to the apartment complex where he located a Cadillac matching the description given by the informant. He then returned to the fire station, telephoned Officer Kevin Kallestad of the South Metro Drug Task Force, and reported what he had seen. Kallestad instructed Thielen to stop and secure the suspect vehicle should anyone attempt to drive it away. Police also began to prepare affidavits as part of a request for warrants to search both the apartment and the Cadillac.

At approximately 10:30 p.m., an Eagan police officer observed two males putting items into the suspect Cadillac. The two males then entered the vehicle and started to drive it out of the parking lot. As per instructions, Eagan police stopped the vehicle at the intersection of Rahn Road and Beau de Rue Drive. The police found Carter in the driver's seat and Melvin Johns in the passenger's seat. The police ordered both men out of the car. As the police opened the door to let Johns out of the car, they observed a black zippered pouch and a handgun, later determined to be loaded, on the floor of the vehicle. The police then placed Carter and Johns under arrest. The police subsequently towed the Cadillac to the Eagan Police Department, and after receiving the signed search warrant at approximately 1:30 a.m. on May 16, the police searched the vehicle. When the officers opened the black zippered pouch, they discovered a white mixture in plastic baggies, Johns' identification, pagers, and a scale. Tests later determined that the white mixture was 47.1 grams of cocaine.

Late in the evening of May 15, after the arrests of Carter and Johns, Eagan police returned to apartment 103 and arrested its occupant, Kimberly Thompson. 2 At approximately 3 a.m. on May 16, police executed a search warrant on the apartment and located cocaine residue on the kitchen table and plastic baggies consistent with those found in the automobile driven by Carter. Thielen subsequently identified Carter, Johns and Thompson as the individuals he had observed in the apartment packaging the white mixture. He

Page 173

identified Carter as the individual he had seen putting the white mixture on the table and dividing it into piles, Johns as the man who wore slippers and placed the piles into baggies, and Thompson as the individual who cut the ends off the baggies and placed the baggies in piles. Police ultimately learned that Carter and Johns were residents of Chicago, Illinois, and that Thompson was the sole lessee of apartment 103. Subsequent to his arrest, Carter made a statement to the police in which he admitted ownership of a duffel bag found inside the Cadillac. A search of the duffel bag uncovered a digital gram scale containing traces and residue of cocaine. Johns made a statement to the police admitting he had accepted a proposal to transport cocaine from Illinois to Minnesota for money, and that he, Carter and Thompson had packaged the cocaine at Thompson's apartment. He also admitted that there were approximately twoounces of crack cocaine and a handgun in the vehicle.

Carter, Johns and Thompson made motions through joint counsel to suppress their statements and all evidence seized from both the apartment and the Cadillac. They argued, among other things, that Thielen's initial observation through the window of Thompson's apartment was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment and that all evidence obtained as a result of those observations should be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. After a two-day omnibus hearing, the district court denied the motions to suppress of Carter and Johns. The court held that the two defendants did not have standing to challenge Thielen's observations through Thompson's window because both defendants failed to present evidence that their expectations of privacy in the apartment were based upon "understandings that are recognized and permitted by society." See Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143-44 n. 12, 99 S.Ct. 421, 430 n. 12, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978); see also Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 110 S.Ct. 1684, 109 L.Ed.2d 85 (1990). In particular, the court noted that the only evidence presented by the defense showed that the two defendants were out-of-state residents who had been at the apartment for a period of time on May 15, 1994. The district court also concluded that Thielen's observation was not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment because the officer made his observation from an area in which the defendants had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Following the district court's denial of their motions to suppress, Carter and Johns proceeded with separate counsel. The district court tried Carter on stipulated facts and found him guilty of conspiracy to commit a controlled-substance crime in the first degree and aiding and abetting a controlled-substance crime in the first degree. Minn.Stat. § 152.021, subd. 1(1), subd. 3(a) (1996); Minn.Stat. § 609.05 (1996). The district court denied Carter's request for a downward departure and sentenced him to 86 months. Carter appealed his conviction, challenging the legality of Thielen's observations through Thompson's apartment window. The court of appeals held that Carter did not have standing to object to Thielen's actions because Carter's claim that he was predominantly a social guest was "inconsistent with the only evidence concerning his stay in the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
25 practice notes
  • State v. Savage, No. 0231, September Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 8, 2006
    ...525 U.S. at 86, 119 S.Ct. 469. Reversing both the trial court and the intermediate Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court, 569 N.W.2d 169, 176 (1997), held that the petitioners enjoyed Fourth Amendment [Even though] society does not recognize as valuable the task of bagging cocaine, ......
  • State v. Carter, No. A03-1215.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 9, 2005
    ...that the expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment is less for a storage unit than for a home. See, e.g., State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169 (Minn.1997) (holding that a police officer who left a sidewalk, climbed over bushes and peered through a gap in a home's blinds to observe drug-r......
  • State v. Carter, No. CX-95-1368
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 15, 1999
    ...holding (1) that the search of the apartment was illegal and (2) that appellants had "standing" to challenge the search. State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169, 171 (Minn.1997) (citing Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution).1 Thr......
  • State v. Gail, No. A05-329.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 18, 2006
    ...which the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect.'" State v. McBride, 666 N.W.2d 351, 360 (Minn.2003) (quoting State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169, 174 (Minn.1997) (Carter I), rev'd on other grounds, 525 U.S. 83, 119 S.Ct. 469, 142 L.Ed.2d 373 (1998)). Gail "has the burden of establishing tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • State v. Savage, No. 0231, September Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 8, 2006
    ...525 U.S. at 86, 119 S.Ct. 469. Reversing both the trial court and the intermediate Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court, 569 N.W.2d 169, 176 (1997), held that the petitioners enjoyed Fourth Amendment [Even though] society does not recognize as valuable the task of bagging cocaine, ......
  • State v. Carter, No. A03-1215.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 9, 2005
    ...that the expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment is less for a storage unit than for a home. See, e.g., State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169 (Minn.1997) (holding that a police officer who left a sidewalk, climbed over bushes and peered through a gap in a home's blinds to observe drug-r......
  • State v. Carter, No. CX-95-1368
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 15, 1999
    ...holding (1) that the search of the apartment was illegal and (2) that appellants had "standing" to challenge the search. State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169, 171 (Minn.1997) (citing Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution).1 Thr......
  • State v. Gail, No. A05-329.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 18, 2006
    ...which the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect.'" State v. McBride, 666 N.W.2d 351, 360 (Minn.2003) (quoting State v. Carter, 569 N.W.2d 169, 174 (Minn.1997) (Carter I), rev'd on other grounds, 525 U.S. 83, 119 S.Ct. 469, 142 L.Ed.2d 373 (1998)). Gail "has the burden of establishing tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT