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Appellate court overturns drug charge dismissal

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- An appellate court opinion filed Tuesday reversed a decision made by the district court to dismiss charges against a man allegedly caught in possession of illegal substances.

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Jose Isabel Rodriguez, 42, of Worthington was charged in August 2009 with first- and second-degree controlled substance possession, a meth-related crime involving children and possession of drug paraphernalia. A search warrant had been executed at his home after a controlled buy led Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force agents to believe Rodriguez might possess controlled substances.

During a pat-down of Rodriguez, an agent found packages he believed to be methamphetamine in Rodriguez's pocket.

When asked if there was more narcotics in the house, Rodriguez allegedly answered there was a meth pipe behind a speaker in the garage. Authorities also found a substance in a plastic bag floating in a toilet that field-tested positive for meth, but later tested negatively in a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) lab. Subsequently, the first-degree controlled substance charge was dismissed.

The district court in November concluded the pat-down search of Rodriguez was unconstitutional because the search of the suspect was not authorized in the warrant and Rodriguez had not been Mirandized at the time.

The suspect's statement at the scene regarding the presence of the meth pipe was suppressed, as was the evidence found in his pockets. Because of the suppression of that evidence, the second-degree controlled substance charge was dismissed, as was the meth-related crime involving children charge.

In the appeal, the state challenged the district court's dismissal of the two counts and Rodriguez asked for a review of the district court's refusal to dismiss the final charge of drug paraphernalia possession.

The appellate court began with the paraphernalia count, stating the district court did not err by concluding the meth pipe would have been discovered during the search and thereby denying the motion to dismiss the paraphernalia charge.

The dismissal of the second-degree controlled substance and the meth-related crime involving children charges were overturned.

"Upon discovering the meth pipe, (the agent) had probably cause to arrest (Rodriguez) for the felony offense of storing meth paraphernalia in the residence of a child," the opinion states.

Arrest for that charge would have inevitably led to the discovery of the alleged meth in the suspect's pants pockets, either during a pat-down or at the time of booking for jail.

"The district court erred by suppressing the methamphetamine found in the respondent's pants pockets," the opinion concludes. "We therefore reverse the district court's suppression of the drugs and the dismissal of counts 2 and 3, and we remand counts 2 and 3 to the district court."

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