Office of Appellate Courts
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Jennifer Saunders, Assistant Minneapolis City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.
William M. Ward, Chief Hennepin County Public Defender, Kellie Charles, Assistant Hennepin County Public Defender, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
1. The offense of fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle, as defined by Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 6 (2012), is a specific-intent crime.
2. When determining whether a defendant is entitled to a voluntary intoxication jury instruction, the evidence is viewed in a light most favorable to the defendant.
3. The district court's failure to give a voluntary intoxication jury instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Appellant Sharon Wilson was convicted of fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle, Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 6 (2012), after she ran from a police officer who was responding to a stabbing at a bar in Minneapolis. The issue arising from the State's prosecution of Wilson is whether this offense is a specific-intent or a general-intent crime. Wilson argued in a pretrial motion that she was entitled to a voluntary intoxication jury instruction because section 609.487, subdivision 6, contains a specific-intent requirement. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the offense is a general-intent crime. After the court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision, we granted Wilson's petition for further review. For the reasons addressed below, we conclude, contrary to the decision of the court of appeals, that section 609.487, subdivision 6, contains a specific-intent requirement. However, because any failure to instruct the jury on voluntary intoxication in this case was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we affirm.
On September 19, 2010, Officer Jeffrey Imming of the Minneapolis Police Department was working near Sunny's Bar on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis. Imming had been hired by the Chicago/Lake business district to patrol the neighborhood. At approximately 1:50 a.m., the manager of Sunny's Bar reported a disturbance to Imming. A surveillance video depicting much of the disturbance was admitted as evidence at trial. When Imming entered the bar, he observed a commotion and radioed for assistance. The crowd eventually moved outside the bar. Imming discovered that a man in the crowd had been stabbed in the back multiple times. Friends of the stabbing victim directed Imming's attention to the alleged perpetrator, Demario Lawrence, who was with Wilson outside the bar.
At Wilson's trial, Imming testified that he told Lawrence and Wilson to "come here" because he needed to talk to them. Lawrence and Wilson ignored Imming. Because he believed that a knife was involved in the altercation, Imming took his gun from its holster and held it on the side of his leg. Imming again gave several commands directing Lawrence and Wilson to "come here." Imming gave his commands in an increasingly loud voice, eventually yelling, as he described, "[a]t the top of my lungs." While doing so, Imming was approximately 10 feet from Lawrence and Wilson, and he made eye contact with both of them. After several commands from Imming, Lawrence and Wilson ran. Imming chased them.
Lawrence fell after running about one-half block. As Lawrence fell, Imming saw and heard a knife hit the ground. Lawrence got up and continued running. Imming testified that he then saw Wilson stop, pick up the knife, and resume running. As Imming tried to tackle Wilson, Imming fell and shattered his ankle.
Sergeant Jeffry Jindra also was present at the scene. He observed both Imming's chase and fall. Jindra also observed Wilson bend down during the chase. Jindra then chased Lawrence on foot and arrested him near an alley. Wilson approached Jindra after Jindra had secured Lawrence. She appeared "very confused" and "nervous, " with a "different look on her face." Jindra, who is trained to observe signs of impairment, testified that Wilson smelled like she had been drinking an alcoholic beverage. Wilson did not attempt to flee from Jindra. But Jindra testified that if Wilson had continued running, an officer would not have caught up with her.
Other responding officers placed Wilson under arrest. An officer searched Wilson for the knife, but it was not found in her possession. Officers could not locate the knife immediately after the incident. But during a later search, police recovered the knife from a window well approximately 15 feet from where Wilson was apprehended.
The State of Minnesota charged Wilson with one count of fleeing a peace officer by means other than a motor vehicle (hereinafter "fleeing by other means"), in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 6. Before trial, Wilson moved for a voluntary intoxication jury instruction, arguing that the charged offense is a specific-intent crime. The district court denied the motion, reasoning that fleeing by other means is a general-intent crime.
The district court ruled that Wilson could question Jindra about her intoxication and make an offer of proof as to the instruction so as to preserve the issue for appeal. Wilson's offer of proof included: (1) Officer Christopher Cushenbery's statement in a police report that Wilson was "intoxicated and was also belligerent" when she was arrested; and (2) a proffer that Wilson would have testified that she was at a bar until approximately 1:45 a.m., and "[t]here would be evidence of alcohol consumption and its ability to limit certain perceptions or conceptual things within [her] range about what did or didn't happen." Because the district court concluded that fleeing by other means is a general-intent crime, the district court did not rule on whether Wilson's ...