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State of Minnesota v. Sheri Lynn Knutson

April 8, 2013

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
SHERI LYNN KNUTSON, APPELLANT.



Lyon County District Court File No. 42-CR-09-174

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS If a defendant's sentence includes both a fine and restitution, and if the defendant makes one or more payments to the district court administrator, the district court may not apply the defendant's payments to the restitution obligation before the fine unless the district court previously issued an order that so specified, as required by Minnesota Statutes section 611A.04, subdivision 4 (2012).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson, Chief Judge

Reversed and remanded

Considered and decided by Johnson, Chief Judge; Worke, Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.

OPINION

JOHNSON, Chief Judge

Sheri Lynn Knutson pleaded guilty to three offenses and was ordered to pay a fine and restitution. She made a series of installment payments to the district court administrator, who treated the payments as restitution and disbursed the funds to the victims of Knutson's crimes. But the district court later modified Knutson's sentence by eliminating the restitution obligation. Knutson then sought to apply her payments to her fine so that her obligation to pay the fine would be fully satisfied. The district court denied her request. We conclude that the district court erred by not applying Knutson's payments to her fine and, therefore, reverse and remand.

FACTS

During the evening of October 15, 2008, Knutson was operating a motor vehicle near the city of Cottonwood when she caused a collision with another vehicle. Knutson's two passengers were injured, and the driver of the other vehicle, A.G., suffered a broken leg, which required surgery and other treatment. Knutson admitted to a state trooper that she had been drinking, and a subsequent test of a blood sample revealed an alcohol concentration of .14.

In February 2009, the state charged Knutson with three counts of negligent criminal vehicular injury as a result of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(2)(i) (2008), and three counts of criminal vehicular injury as a result of operating a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(3) (2008). On June 15, 2009, the state filed a certificate of restitution in which it sought $10,077.65 to reimburse A.G.'s family and his medical insurer for medical expenses.

On June 16, 2009, Knutson pleaded guilty to the first three counts. The state dismissed the remaining counts. On August 11, 2009, the district court adjudicated Knutson guilty but stayed imposition of a sentence for three years, ordered Knutson to spend 210 days in jail, and placed her on supervised probation. The district court also ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine, a $75 surcharge, a $30 fee for a chemical-dependency assessment, a $28 public-defender co-pay fee, and a $10 law-library fee, for a total of $1,143. At the state's request, the district court deferred a final ruling on the issue of restitution because A.G.'s medical expenses were ongoing. The district court gave the state one year in which to file an amended certificate of restitution. The warrant of commitment indicates that the district court recognized a restitution obligation in an amount to be determined after one year.

At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the district court informed Knutson that she would be required to pay her fine, fees, and surcharge according to a payment schedule to be determined by a "screener collector" and suggested that Knutson meet with that person after the hearing. On the same day, Knutson signed a document entitled "Payment Agreement," which shows the "total fine due" as $1,143 and includes the following provision: "I have agreed to pay $0 toward my fine today and the balance at the rate of $34.00 per month; with payments to continue as scheduled until paid in full. My first payment is due on Sept. 11, 2009 and on the 11th of each month thereafter." Between August 2009 and July 2010, Knutson made ten payments to the court administrator totaling $1,293.

One year after the sentencing hearing, on August 11, 2010, the state filed an amended certificate of restitution in which it sought total restitution of $14,200.87. On August 26, 2010, Knutson challenged the state's restitution request on the ground that she had entered into an agreement with A.G. in August 2009 to resolve a civil action and that the settlement provided A.G.'s family with $100,000 in compensation. See State v. Arends, 786 N.W.2d 885, 889-90 (Minn. App. 2010) (holding that civil settlement benefitting crime victim precludes state from seeking restitution for that victim's losses), review denied (Minn. Oct. 27, 2010). On October 12, 2010, the district court sustained Knutson's challenge in part and reduced her restitution obligation by the amount sought by A.G.'s family. In June 2011, Knutson ...


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