Minnesota Supreme Court upholds Nobles County drug conviction

WORTHINGTON – The Minnesota Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of David Dale Spies of Dundee, who pleaded guilty in November 2011 to fifth-degree controlled substance sale.

Spies was arrested in October 2011 after the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force received two anonymous tips regarding marijuana-grow operation on Spies’s property. After his arrest, Spies entered into a plea agreement and was given a stay of imposition and five years probation. He appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence, arguing that certain the evidence against him was gained during an unlawful search of his property.

According to court documents, agents drove to his acreage to talk to Spies after the tips were received, but no one answered the door. Because there were cars in the driveway, agents assumed someone was home and might be in one of the outbuildings on the property. Two buildings were approximately 30 yards away, so the agents walked toward them and discovered a cultivated large marijuana plant in potting soil. Through an open door, they saw items commonly used in grow operations.

Based on that information, a search warrant was obtained and executed. Marijuana plants were found growing in the outbuildings and house.

Spies moved to suppress the evidence on the grounds the first plant found was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court concluded the warrant was supported by probable cause.

Generally, an unlawful search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment occurs when an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy is invaded. Spies claimed he has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area of his outbuildings.

Because the area was not enclosed and agents testified the plant was visible from the driveway, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the district court’s decision.

Spies is currently on probation for the controlled substance conviction. He has previous convictions of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Wadena County and driving while impaired in Nobles County.

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