State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Gerald Dwayne Cadena, Appellant.

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This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (1998).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C9-99-1063

 

State of Minnesota,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Gerald Dwayne Cadena,

Appellant.

 

Filed March 7, 2000

Affirmed

Kalitowski, Judge

 

McLeod County District Court

File No. K2993

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103; and

 

Michael Junge, McLeod County Attorney, 830 11th Street East, Suite 214, Glencoe, MN  55336 (for respondent)

 

Richard L. Swanson, 1059 Stoughton Avenue, P.O. Box 85, Chaska, MN  55318 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

KALITOWSKI, Judge

            Appellant Gerald Cadena challenges his conviction for a fifth-degree controlled substance offense in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (1998), based on the legality of the police officers' search.  We affirm. 

D E C I S I O N

            In reviewing pretrial orders on motions to suppress evidence, we conduct an independent review of the facts "and determine, as a matter of law, whether the district court erred in suppressingor not suppressingthe evidence."  State v. Harris, 590 N.W.2d 90, 98 (Minn. 1999) (citation omitted).  When the facts are not in dispute, a court reviewing the reasonableness of a search analyzes the facts to determine if the police officers' actions were justified as a matter of law.  State v. Halla-Poe, 468 N.W.2d 570, 572 (Minn. App. 1991).

            Cadena argues that the district court erred in determining that he did not have a sufficient expectation of privacy in the Pratts' basement to object to the search.   But because we conclude that the actions of the police were justified as a matter of law, Cadena's Fourth Amendment claim fails on the merits.

The Constitutions of both the United States and Minnesota protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.  U.S. Const. amend.  IV;  Minn.  Const. art.  I, § 10.  A search conducted outside the judicial process is per se unreasonable, subject to a few specific exceptions.  Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S. Ct. 507, 514 (1967).  If such a search is made and it does not fall within an exception, its fruit must be suppressed.  Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-85, 83 S. Ct. 407, 416 (1963).  A search is reasonable only if it is conducted with a valid search warrant unless it fits within one of the recognized exceptions, which include a search conducted pursuant to voluntary consent.  State v. Hanley, 363 N.W.2d 735, 738 (Minn. 1985). 

Cadena argues that the officers' search of the Pratts' basement did not fall within a recognized exception to warrantless searches.  We disagree.  It is clear from the record that the search was constitutionally permissible because of the Pratts' consent.

Police need not obtain a warrant to search an area if someone with legal authority over that area consents to the search.  See, e.g., United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 171, 94 S. Ct. 988, 993 (1974); In re Welfare of D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d 787, 789 (Minn. 1992).  In order for consent to be valid, it must be voluntary.  Whether consent is voluntary is a question of fact, based on all relevant circumstances.  Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 227, 93 S. Ct. 2041, 2047-48 (1973);  State v. Howard, 373 N.W.2d 596, 599 (Minn. 1985).  

Here, the record amply supports the district court's finding that the Pratts voluntarily revealed the additional marijuana to the arresting officers.  Mirta Pratt alerted the police to the presence of additional marijuana when she said that she and her husband were not going to "take the fall," and indicated there was more in the basement.  Jeff Pratt then offered to take the officers to the marijuana.  He escorted them to a cardboard box in the basement, removed the clothes piled on top, and pulled out the plastic bags containing approximately 20 pounds of marijuana.  In a statement given to the police later that evening, Pratt confirmed that he had voluntarily shown the officers the location of the marijuana.  Mirta Pratt likewise confirmed in her statement that she had willingly made the officers aware of additional marijuana on the premises. 

Cadena argues that even if the Pratts could consent to a search of the basement, they did not have authority to permit police to search that portion of the basement that Cadena had "leased" for storage of the marijuana.   We disagree.  Even assuming that the oral arrangement between Jeff Pratt and Cadena somehow qualified as a "lease," the record provides no support for Cadena's claim that the purported leasehold granted him exclusive access to a corner of the Pratts' basement.   A person with "common authority" over the premises "may consent to a search even though a person with whom that authority is shared is absent and does not consent."  Welfare of D.A.G., 484 N.W.2d at 789. 

Nothing in the record suggests that the Pratts did not have full and unfettered access to the entire basement, including the area that Cadena claims to have leased.  Cadena did not even tape the bags closed, much less secure them in some type of locked container, such as a suitcase or footlocker.  See, e.g., United States v. Salinas-Cano, 959 F.2d 861, 864 (10th Cir. 1992) (noting boxes and plastic buckets are not the type of containers commonly used to preserve privacy).  Because Cadena did not take even minimal steps to prevent the Pratts from having access to the marijuana, he cannot have reasonably expected to retain exclusive control over it with respect to them.  Under these circumstances, we conclude the search was constitutional because the Pratts could consent to a search of the basement, including the box containing the marijuana. 

            Affirmed.