SailorsAllen Law

Warrantless Search of Dugouts

Not that much is happening in Minnesota law this week.   I could talk about the MNSC reviewing the life sentence of a juvenile in light of recent SCOTUS cases, but that is so esoteric it cannot appeals to the masses.  The COA also published a case to talk about the retroactivity of Birchfield, Thompson, and Trahan regarding the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in DWI cases.  They said no.   You can’t go back and change the past with the ghost of DWI future.   So we will talk about an unpublished case called State v. Lanigan, A16-0958, released on May 15, 2017.  Mr. Lanigan was convicted of drug possession and he appealed the search.  The facts of this case are the CEE-VI Drug Task Force or called the C6DTF learned about a wanted fugitive named Amanda Rohde.   The spelling of her last name gave the C6 squad pause.  The agents learned through subterfuge c6 techniques that Rohde was staying at Lanigan’s trailer with an attached screened entry porch.  Which is something that is a selling point on House Hunters.  The c6 knocked on the door and Lanigan answered and asked about if a “female” was inside.   If Lanigan would have been a pimple faced teenager he would have been defensive about the question.  Lanigan said someone named Mandy was there.  The sheriff arrived at the scene and told Lanigan that he “needed to talk” to Rohde.  Lanigan said she was in the back bedroom and “kind of gestured toward the back bedroom.”  Lanigan opened the door and stepped aside.   Lanigan said the sheriff never asked for Rohde.  He also said the sheriff pulled the door open and as a result, Lanigan just stepped aside.   Both parties agree that the officer did not ask permission and that Lanigan did not give the officers permission.

The officers entered the found Rohde in the “middle bedroom” sitting on the bed.  The Rodhe Scholar was arrested and taken out of the bedroom.  The sheriff remained in the bedroom and conducted a warrantless search of the area.  He noticed a wrapped bandana on the bed where Rodhe had been sitting, grabbed and unwrapped it and found a pipe containing white residue.  He believed the white residue to be meth.  Continuing the warrantless search he also discovered a marijuana pipe and a “dugout,” which is a wooden case that has two compartments.  One for tobacco or marijuana and another compartment to store the smoking mechanism.  Sounds like a nice gift on Etsy.  The sheriff then stopped his search because he knew the c6’ers were going to get a search warrant.   Drugs were found during the search and Lanigan moved the suppress them as a result of an illegal search.   The district court said the search was fine and Lanigan entered into a stipulated Lothenbach trial to set up this appeal.

The COA flipped this case saying Lanigan never gave consent for the officers to enter his trailer.  They say that even if it is assumed that Lanigan consented to the officers’ initial entry of his home, the scope of the consent was limited to speaking with the Rohde Scholar.  State v. Auman, 386 N.W.2d 818, 820 (Minn. App. 1986)(describing the scope of consent as limited terms of consent).  Any putative consent did not include consent to search his home.  The conservation between the officers and Lanigan was speaking to Rohde.  So once the officers arrested her the sheriff stayed behind and conducted an unwarranted search of Lanigan’s bedroom without his consent.   At that point, the officers were under an obligation to exit his home or ask his consent to search the bedroom. See id.   No consent.

The second issue is plain view.  The State said this search was fine because the incriminating items were found in plain view.  A limited voluntary consent does not authorize “indiscriminate rummages” of a person’s possessions. State v. Powell, 357 N.W.2d 146, 150 (Minn. App. 1984).  But, when an officer is lawfully present in a home, evidence may be seized if it is in plain view of the officer. State v. Campbell, 581 N.W.2d 870, 871 (Minn. App. 1998).  In order to satisfy the plain view exception, it must be established that: (1)[the] police are legitimately in the position from which they view the object; (2) they have a lawful right of access to the object; and (3) the object’s incriminating nature is immediately apparent.” State v. Zanter, 535 N.W.2d 624, 631 (Minn. 1995).  Here, the sheriff remained in the bedroom after Rohde was taken out.  Therefore, he was no longer had any consent to be there.  Not to mention unwrapping bandanas and digging into nightstands for dugouts.

So this case gets reversed.   Lanigan wins and he gets his dugout back.  So there are a few things to learn here today.  First, if the police want to enter your house to remove Helen, only allow them to remove Helen, not carte blanche to search the place.  Second, a dugout seems like a convenient way to keep your smoking products and smoking devices together.   You can buy one here if you want to be organized like Mr. Lanigan.