State v. Crea, 44815

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation233 N.W.2d 736,305 Minn. 342
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Ronald Thomas CREA, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 44815,44815
Decision Date12 September 1975

Wilton E. Gervais, St. Paul, for appellant.

Warren Spannaus, Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Robert W. Johnson, County Atty., Edward W. Bearse, Asst. County Atty., Anoka, for respondent.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.


Defendant was found guilty by the Anoka County District Court, sitting without a jury, of a charge of concealing stolen property, Minn.St. 609.53, and sentenced to a fine of $1,000 and a term of imprisonment, with execution of the prison sentence stayed. Upon this appeal from judgment of conviction, defendant contends that his conviction was based on evidence seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, evidence which defendant sought to suppress at a Rasmussen hearing. We affirm.

At 4:20 a.m. on December 15, 1971, the dispatcher for the Anoka County sheriff's office received a telephone call from Mrs. Myron Malenke of Blaine, reporting the theft moments before of two Polaris snowmobiles, 1971 and 1972 models, along with a snowmobile trailer. At 4:30 a.m. the dispatcher received another call from a neighbor of Mrs. Malenke, Richard G. Steuck, who reported that on his way to work he had seen a 1969 or 1970 Buick with license number 4GR 449 pulling a trailer containing two snowmobiles, and that he thought the trailer and snowmobiles might have been stolen from a neighbor.

At about 5:25 a.m. Officers Fischer and Hedlund of the Blaine Police Department observed a car leaving a home at 6800 Hodgson Road which fit the description of the car Steuck had seen. The officers stopped the car and arrested the driver, Dennis McGaughey, who is defendant's half brother. After being given a Miranda warning, McGaughey refused to speak to the officers. Other officers soon arrived, some to take custody of McGaughey, others to assist in checking the grounds at 6800 Hodgson Road and talk to whoever was at the house.

Using their flashlights, the officers walked down the driveway toward the house. They observed two snowmobile trailers, one on the left in front of an unattached garage, another on the right behind the house. The second trailer matched a description police had secured of the trailer stolen from the Malenkes. The officers approached this trailer and observed in the snow snowmobile tracks going from the trailer to a walk-in basement door. Shining their flashlights through a window in the walk-in basement door, the officers saw three snowmobiles in the basement, one of which was a Polaris that matched the description of one of the two stolen from the Malenkes. Apparently simultaneously, other officers peered into the garage through a hole in a cloth covering a window and through a gap in the door. They saw another snowmobile, also a Polaris, in the garage.

About the time that the officers were peering through the window into the basement, defendant appeared and asked them what they were doing. One officer stated that they wanted to talk to him and defendant invited them into the house. There was testimony that once the officers were inside the house one stated that they were investigating snowmobile thefts; that they had seen trailers outside and snowmobiles in the basement; and that they would like to check out the ones in the basement. The officers testified that defendant gave them permission to do so. Defendant, however, testified that they went to the basement without asking for, and without his giving permission. The Rasmussen hearing judge believed the officers and found that defendant had given permission to the officers to search the basement.

Once in the basement the officers observed three snowmobiles, one being a Polaris which they identified as one of the two taken from the Malenkes. The officers found the serial number of the snowmobile in a garbage can in the basement. Defendant told the officers that he owned one of the three snowmobiles, that a friend owned one, but that he had never seen the Polaris before. Defendant also denied knowledge of the trailer outside the basement. The officers then placed defendant under arrest and advised him of his rights. On the way to the police car defendant informed the officers that if they wanted to get into the detached garage they could use a key which they would find in the house.

Malenke, called to defendant's house, identified the trailer and the two Polaris snowmobiles as his. The officers determined that the other trailer and two of the other snowmobiles had been taken the previous morning from another party.

At 1:30 p.m. that afternoon defendant told an officer interrogating him that he had known the snowmobiles were stolen, but was just storing them for friends. Defendant testified at trial that Dennis McGaughey had brought the snowmobiles to his house and that defendant knew they were stolen.

In seeking a reversal of his conviction, defendant contends that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights in discovering the presence of the trailers and snowmobiles on his property, and that he did not voluntarily consent to the search of his basement.

1. Although the Fourth Amendment refers only to 'persons, houses, papers and effects,' courts generally have held that it applies also to the 'curtilage,' which is the area adjacent to a house and includes the garage. 1 Polk v. United States, 291 F.2d 230 (9 Cir. 1961), affirmed after remand, 314 F.2d 837 (1963), certiorari denied, 375 U.S. 844, 84 S.Ct. 96, 11 L.Ed.2d 72 (1963); Care v. United States, 231 F.2d 22, 25 (10 Cir. 1956), certiorari denied, 351 U.S. 932, 76 S.Ct. 788, 100 L.Ed. 1461 (1956).

But this does not mean that absent special circumstances police may never go on the curtilage without a...

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  • State v. Lodermeier
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • December 2, 1991
    ...may enter a driveway and, while there, may inspect objects in open view to discover whether they are stolen. State v. Crea, 305 Minn. 342, 233 N.W.2d 736, 739 (1975). 6 If the officer discovers evidence of a crime, he may seize it. Dinsmore, 303 N.W.2d at 863. See also Payton v. New York, 4......
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    • September 11, 1997 walking onto the homeowner's driveway and observing stolen property that was in plain sight from the driveway. State v. Crea, 305 Minn. 342, 346, 233 N.W.2d 736, 739 (1975). Other courts similarly have found no Fourth Amendment protection for activities that are easily observable by the ......
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