Court of Appeals 09.29.09

One unpublished case in our area, an appeal of a criminal case dismissal out of Maplewood.  Maplewood’s building officials red-tagged a building following a fire, but soon suspected that the building tenants were occupying the building.  Maplewood got an administrative warrant and went in to investigate.  Resulting charges for occupancy without an approved COO were thrown out, though, apparently upon revelation that the building’s existing COO hadn’t been revoked and no argument could be made why a new COO was necessary for this business.  The district court found that the failure to mention the existing COO invalidated the search.  When the City re-charged the business owner, they left out any building code offenses – though it seems like violation of the red-tag order (which didn’t seem to need the search evidence to be viable) could have stood up.  Then again, it seems that few metro-area criminal courts take code enforcement charges all that seriously, and there were more traditional charges available.  

During the warrant inspection, four uniformed police officers accompanied the inspector.  The business owner, taking offense to the inspeciton, chose to fight with the police officers.  Following dismissal of the building-code charges (an obstruction of legal process charge stood), the city came back with assault and disorderly-conduct charges in addition to the OLP.  Eight days before trial, the district court rendered its decision about evidence from the search, but for good measure decided to dismiss all the charges, too.  As befits a decision based largely on sympathy for the defendant, the technical grounds for dismissal were weak to nonexistent, and the Court of Appeals has little trouble reversing those decisions (the defendant allegedly did kick a police officer, after all, bad search or no).  However, the Court devotes a full page of the opinion to blasting the prosecution for not just amending the complaint and sparing everyone the pain of an appeal.  Words to live by.


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