State v. Sweedland

Decision Date16 August 2006
Docket NumberNo. 23713.,23713.
Citation2006 SD 77,721 N.W.2d 409
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Michael SWEEDLAND, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Lawrence E. Long, Attorney General, Steven R. Blair, Assistant Attorney General, Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

Matthew J. Kinney, Kinney & Dardis, L.L.P., Spearfish, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

SABERS, Justice.

[¶ 1.] Michael Sweedland (Sweedland) appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of his vehicle. We reverse.


[¶ 2.] On the morning of February 13, 2005, Jay Pearson (Pearson) was cleaning one of the rooms in the Budget Host Jackpot Inn Motel in Deadwood, South Dakota. During that time, Pearson smelled what he believed to be marijuana smoke emanating from two rooms across the hallway. Pearson witnessed four young males, whom he believed to be the occupants of the rooms, leaving the motel. Pearson reported this information to law enforcement.

[¶ 3.] The Pearson information was relayed over radio by police dispatch. A summary by the dispatcher is as follows:

Manager of the Budget Host advised four males just left the motel, headed into town, driving Montana License 29A8307, maroon 2000 4-door Oldsmobile. The hallway smells like marijuana, as well as the two rooms they were staying in.

Officer Alex Hamann (Hamann), a Deadwood City Police Officer, was on duty that day and heard the dispatch. Approximately three to five minutes after receiving the dispatch, Hamann identified a vehicle that matched the description given in the dispatch. Sweedland was driving the vehicle. Michael Huggins, Joseph Teasdale, and Jason Morrow were passengers in the Sweedland vehicle.1

[¶ 4.] Hamann witnessed no traffic violations, but decided to stop the car to investigate the information relayed by dispatch. Sweedland pulled into a parking lot and stopped his vehicle upon seeing Hamann's emergency lights.2 Hamann then approached the driver's side of the vehicle and asked Sweedland for his driver's license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Sweedland provided the requested information and was asked to exit the vehicle and accompany Hamann to his patrol car.

[¶ 5.] Hamann performed a pat down of the outside of Sweedland's clothes before the two entered the patrol car. Nothing was found as a result of this search. Once the two had been seated in the car, Hamann began questioning Sweedland. Hamann first communicated the information that was received by dispatch and asked Sweedland why anyone would "say something like that." Sweedland replied that he "did not know." Hamann then asked Sweedland if he had any marijuana in his car, to which Sweedland answered in the negative. At this point, Hamann asked Sweedland for consent to search the vehicle. Sweedland asked Hamann what "grounds" he had to conduct the search. Hamann replied that he wanted to "follow through" with the complaint but that it was "up to [Sweedland]." Sweedland again refused to give consent stating that there were "no grounds" for a search and that he and his friends had not done anything unlawful. Hamann told Sweedland that he understood, but if Sweedland and his friends had truly done nothing illegal, there would be no reason to be concerned about a search. At this point, Sweedland told Hamann that he was tired and wanted to "get going." Hamann then told Sweedland to remain in the patrol car. At no time during this encounter did Hamann witness any signs of impairment or behavior that enhanced his suspicions.3

[¶ 6.] Hamann exited the patrol car and approached the driver's side door of Sweedland's vehicle. He asked the three passengers to exit the vehicle via the passenger doors. After the passengers had complied, Hamann put his head inside the car via the driver's side window and looked at the interior of the vehicle. Before Hamann began questioning the three passengers, he turned off the outside microphone of his patrol car.4 He obtained driver's licenses from each of the three passengers and returned to his patrol car to use the radio. The passengers remained standing to the right of the Sweedland vehicle.

[¶ 7.] None of the three passengers had outstanding warrants, but one had a suspended driver's license. Before Hamann could return the passengers' licenses, he was confronted by Officer Mertens (Mertens) who arrived to assist Hamann. Hamann told Mertens that he was unable to get Sweedland to consent to a search of the vehicle. Mertens suggested that they perform pat downs on the outer clothing of the three passengers. He did not mention any safety concerns justifying the pat down, and Hamann did not believe his safety was threatened at that time. At no time did Hamann witness any signs of impairment or other behavior on the part of the three passengers that would have increased his suspicions beyond that of the initial dispatch.

[¶ 8.] Hamann testified that upon returning to the three passengers, he inquired whether he could perform the pat downs. According to Hamann, the three acquiesced. One of the passengers, Joseph Teasdale, produced a pipe and some screens from his right coat pocket. The pipe and screens appeared to be brand new and did not contain any marijuana residue. Hamann then searched the area in the vehicle where Teasdale had been seated. Hamann found a wooden box containing marijuana residue. The officers proceeded with a search of the entire vehicle. A search of the vehicle's interior produced two to three bags of marijuana and eight to ten pieces of paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana. A search of the vehicle's trunk produced eleven bricks of marijuana.

[¶ 9.] Sweedland and the three passengers were arrested and charged with various drug related offenses. All four defendants made motions to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the stop, search, and seizures. The motions were consolidated and a hearing was held on April 4, 2005.

[¶ 10.] The circuit court issued a written decision denying the motions. The court held that the three passengers did not have standing to challenge the search as they had no legitimate expectation of privacy in Sweedland's vehicle. As to the passenger pat downs, the court found that "there were no specific, reasonable observations by the officer which would support a conclusion that any of the defendants were armed and dangerous." In addition, the court noted, "there is no evidence that any of the defendants knowingly and intelligently consented to a search of their persons." The court also found that nothing transpired between the stop and the search that "serve[d] as circumstantial evidence corroborating the report from the motel." However, the court denied Sweedland's motion, writing:

[U]nder the totality of the circumstances test the officer was able to verify the report of the informant, shortly after it was made, in respect to the description, state of registration, and license number of the motor vehicle as well as its direction of travel and the number and sex of occupants. Ergo, I conclude as a matter of law that the officer had probable cause that either the vehicle and/or its occupants possessed contraband and that he was legally entitled to conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle and its occupants under the automobile exception to the search warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Articles VI, § 11 of the South Dakota State Constitution.

[¶ 11.] The passengers were tried and convicted of drug related offenses. They did not appeal. Sweedland was convicted of violating SDCL 22-42-7 and 22-3-3, which prohibit the possession of more than one pound of marijuana with the intent to distribute. He raises the following issue on appeal:

Whether there was sufficient corroboration of the informer's tip to permit a warrantless search of Sweedland's vehicle.5

Standard of Review

[¶ 12.] Our standard of review is well settled:

A motion to suppress based on an alleged violation of a constitutionally protected right is a question of law reviewed de novo. We review findings of fact under the clearly erroneous standard. Once the facts have been determined, however, the application of a legal standard to those facts is a question of law reviewed de novo.

State v. Chavez, 2003 SD 93, ¶ 13, 668 N.W.2d 89, 95 (quoting State v. Hodges, 2001 SD 93, ¶ 8, 631 N.W.2d 206, 209) (internal citations omitted).


[¶ 13.] The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article VI, Section 11 of the South Dakota Constitution protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures.6 "As a rule, this protection has been interpreted as holding `a seizure of personal property . . . per se unreasonable . . . unless it is accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause[.]'" State v. Ballard, 2000 SD 134, ¶ 10, 617 N.W.2d 837, 840 (quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 701, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2641, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983)). The warrant requirement is not without exceptions. Specifically, the automobile exception excuses law enforcement from obtaining a warrant when the officer has probable cause to search the vehicle. Id. n. 2 (citing Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 7.1(a) at 433 (3d ed. 1995)).

[¶ 14.] Because the Fourth Amendment has a "strong preference" for searches conducted pursuant to a warrant, law enforcement is afforded no deference when relying on an exception to justify a warrantless intrusion. State v. Raveydts, 2004 SD 134, ¶ 8, 691 N.W.2d 290, 293; State v. Luxem, 324 N.W.2d 273, 279 (S.D. 1982). When the state is relying on an exception to the warrant requirement, its burden is as follows:

Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Art. VI, 11 of the South Dakota Constitution a warrantless search and seizure is per se...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • Byrd v. Commonwealth of Va.., Record No. 2197–08–1.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • February 1, 2011
    ...location in the specific vehicle with Michigan plates, but did not observe anything suspicious or criminal in nature); State v. Sweedland, 721 N.W.2d 409 (S.D.2006) (finding the informant's tip lacked probable cause where the informant did not give an explicit and detailed account of the ev......
  • State v. Storm
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2017
    ...(2014) ; State v. Werner, 615 A.2d 1010, 1014 (R.I. 1992) ; State v. Fischer, 873 N.W.2d 681, 689 (S.D. 2016) ; State v. Sweedland, 721 N.W.2d 409, 413–14 (S.D. 2006) ; State v. Saine, 297 S.W.3d 199, 207 (Tenn. 2009) ; State v. Rigby, 369 P.3d 127, 137–38 (Utah Ct. App. 2016) ; State v. To......
  • State v. Bowker
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 9, 2008
    ...alleging an illegal warrantless search implicate a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights and are reviewed by this Court de novo. State v. Sweedland, 2006 SD 77, ¶¶ 12-13, 721 N.W.2d 409, 412. (citations omitted). However, we apply the clearly erroneous standard to the factual findings below. ......
  • State v. Madsen
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • January 21, 2009
    ...and agents implicates a defendant's Fourth Amendment right. State v. Bowker, 2008 SD 61, ¶ 17, 754 N.W.2d 56, 62 (citing State v. Sweedland, 2006 SD 77, ¶¶ 12-13, 721 N.W.2d 409, 412). "The constitutional provisions prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures only protect against action ......
  • 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