Douglas County District Court File No. 21CR111828
Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, Jennifer Coates, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Chad Larson, Douglas County Attorney, Alexandria, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Theodora Gaїtas, Assistant State Public Defender, John Morrisey, certified student attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
Appellant argues that his felony convictions of driving while impaired (DWI) must be reversed because the state failed to establish that appellant was the same individual referenced in a record certifying a 2003 conviction and, thus, the evidence was insufficient to prove that he had the prior impaired-driving incidents required for a felony conviction. We affirm.
In October 2011, appellant Gerald Dean Russell was charged with first-degree refusal to submit to chemical testing; first-degree DWI; and driving after cancellation–– inimical to public safety. The complaint alleged that the first two offenses were first-degree offenses-felonies-because he had three or more qualified prior impaired-driving incidents within ten years.
At trial, appellant stipulated that he had two qualified prior impaired-driving incidents within ten years. The state then presented evidence of a third impaired-driving incident by introducing a certified disposition report from Wisconsin showing that a Gerald D. Russell, with a birthdate of May 17, 1961, was "guilty/no contest" in connection with the offense of operating while intoxicated in November 2003. The state, however, presented no further evidence connecting appellant to the Wisconsin offense, and appellant presented no evidence at trial rebutting this evidence.
The jury found appellant guilty of the charged offenses. Appellant subsequently moved for a judgment of acquittal arguing that the state failed to prove that appellant had a third qualified prior driving incident because there was not sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that appellant was the same individual who was convicted of operating while intoxicated in Wisconsin in November 2003. The district court concluded that under State v. West, 175 Minn. 516, 221 N.W. 903 (1928), certified copies of convictions in a defendant's name constitutes sufficient prima facie evidence of identity and is sufficient evidence to justify the jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is the same person as so named in the records of the prior convictions. Thus, the district court denied appellant's motion and sentenced him to the presumptive sentence of 60 months in prison. This appeal followed.
When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court conducts a thorough analysis of the record to determine whether the jury reasonably could find the defendant guilty of the offense based on the facts in the record and the legitimate inferences that can be drawn from those facts. State v. Chambers, 589 N.W.2d 466, 477 (Minn. 1999). In doing so, the reviewing court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and assumes that the jury believed the evidence supporting the guilty verdict and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. State v. Fleck, 777 N.W.2d 233, 236 (Minn. 2010). This court will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, reasonably could conclude that the defendant is guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 2 (2010), provides: "It is a crime for any person to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the person's blood, breath, or urine under section 169A.51 (chemical tests for intoxication), or 169A.52 (test refusal or failure; revocation of license)." To elevate the offense to a first-degree felony-level offense, the state was required to prove that appellant committed the offense "within ten years of the first of three or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents." Minn. Stat. § 169A.24, subd. 1(1) (2010). '"Qualified prior impaired driving incident' includes prior impaired driving convictions and prior impaired driving-related losses of license." Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, ...