Cops Had Grounds for Terry Stop of Passenger in Drug Dealer's Car

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: criminal law, Terry stop.

State of Minnesota v. Charles William Lemert. MN criminal law, Terry stop

In January 2010, officers from the Nicollet County Sheriff's Office were investigating Thomas Anthony for suspected drug trafficking. They believed he was a methamphetamine dealer in the St. Peter, MN, area. They arranged two controlled buys from Anthony, and then arranged to execute a search warrant at Anthony's apartment. Before they could execute the search warrant, Anthony left his apartment and officers followed. They arrested him and placed him in a police car.

Charles William Lemert was a passenger in the vehicle, and officers ordered him to get out and stand by the vehicle. They did a pat-down search and found an object that the officer recognized as a pipe for smoking drugs. They then recovered a small amount of methamphetamine.

Lemert was charged with a fifth-degree controlled substance offense. He moved to exclude the evidence discovered during the pat search, but this motion was denied. He was then convicted and placed on five years probation. On March 25, 2013, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. The defendant then sought review by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court affirmed, and held that the patdown search was proper under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Under the totality of the circumstances, the officers reasonably believed that Lemert was armed and dangerous. He was in a vehicle that was recently engaged in large-scale drug activity.

Howevder, the Supreme Court declined to adopt the "automatic-companion" rule. Police are not automatically entitled to search the companion of someone they arrest. But under the facts of this case, there was sufficient grounds for the search. For these reasons, the supreme court affirmed the conviction.

A12-0050 (Minn. Mar. 5, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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