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State v. Eakins

August 29, 2006

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
JONATHAN DAVID EAKINS, APPELLANT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. 05000513.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Minn. Stat. § 169.444, subd. 6 (2004), which imposes petty-misdemeanor liability on an owner of a motor vehicle that is used to violate the school-bus-safety law by being driven in disregard to a bus's flashing red lights and extended stop-signal arm, is rationally related to the legitimate governmental purpose of protecting school children on or near roadways and does not violate due process.

2. The statute does not create a presumption that the owner of a motor vehicle that violates the school-bus-safety law was the driver of that vehicle, does not shift the burden of proof to the defendant, and does not require the defendant to testify against himself.

3. The evidence was sufficient to show both a violation of the school-bus-safety law and the identity of the registered owner of the violating vehicle.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shumaker, Judge

Affirmed

Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

OPINION

Appellant Jonathan David Eakins was cited for owning a motor vehicle that failed to stop at the warning lights and stop-signal arm of a school bus. On appeal, he argues that the statute is unconstitutional because it violates the owner's right to due process by creating an irrebuttable presumption or an irrational rebuttable presumption that the owner of the car was the driver, or by criminalizing car ownership generally. He also argues that his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated during the evidentiary hearing. We affirm.

FACTS

At about 3:50 p.m. on October 28, 2004, school-bus driver Alexander Karisik stopped his bus on a public street in Eden Prairie to allow children to get off. Approximately 150 feet before his stop, Karisik activated his flashing amber lights. By the time he stopped the bus, he had activated his flashing red lights and had extended the bus's stop-signal arm. He then noticed a car coming from the opposite direction that did not appear to be slowing down. In disregard of the flashing red lights and the stop-signal arm, the driver passed by the bus and continued down the road. Karisik could not describe the driver but he was able to identify the car as a gray Pontiac sedan with Minnesota license plate number GZX-636. After Karisik completed a "School Bus Arm Violation Form," an Eden Prairie police officer investigated and determined that the car was registered to appellant Jonathan David Eakins. The officer mailed a citation to Eakins charging him with being the owner of a vehicle that violated the school-bus-safety law. Minn. Stat. § 169.444, subd. 1 (2004).

Eakins pleaded not guilty and moved to dismiss the charge. The court denied the motion, held a bench trial, and found Eakins guilty of the petty misdemeanor of being the owner of a violating vehicle. On appeal, Eakins challenges his conviction and the constitutionality of that portion of the statute that penalizes the owner of a vehicle for a violation of the school-bus-safety law.

ISSUES

1. Does Minn. Stat. ยง 169.444, subd. 6 (2004), violate a defendant's right to due process under the United States Constitution or Minnesota Constitution by creating an irrebuttable presumption or a limited but illegitimate rebuttable presumption that the owner was ...


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