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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 17, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Culisa Ann Thomas, Appellant.

Kandiyohi County District Court File No. 34-CR-12-341.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

Jennifer K. Fischer, Kandiyohi County Attorney, Stephen J. Wentzell, Assistant County Attorney, Willmar, Minnesota (for respondent)

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge. [*]


Because the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides an express textual source of protection from excessive bail, we will not consider a challenge to the imposition of bail premised on the Fourteenth Amendment.


ROSS, Judge

After police arrested Culisa Thomas for possessing a controlled substance, the district court released her on her personal recognizance on the conditions that she not possess or consume alcohol or drugs and submit to random drug testing at her expense. Thomas did not participate in her required drug tests, claiming that she could not afford to do so. The district court found Thomas in violation of her release conditions and modified them to include an option: she must either pay $25, 000 bail for an unconditional release or she must pay $500 bail and pay for drug testing for a conditional release. Thomas now appeals from that amended release order, asserting that her rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated when the district court based her release terms on drug testing that she cannot afford. Because her claim is in essence one of excessive bail, and the Eighth Amendment provides an express textual source of constitutional protection from excessive bail, we do not consider Thomas's Fourteenth Amendment argument, and we affirm the district court's bail order.


Drug and gang task force agents and police officers executed a search warrant on Culisa Thomas's apartment in Willmar in April 2012. The search uncovered numerous baggies having residue that tested positive as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as various drug paraphernalia. Thomas admitted that she lived at the address and used marijuana and cocaine regularly. The next month the state charged Thomas with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance under Minnesota Statutes section 152.025, subdivision 2(a)(1) (2010). The district court appointed Thomas a public defender at her initial appearance and released her conditionally on her personal recognizance. The court's release conditions required Thomas to abstain from alcohol and drugs and to submit to random drug testing at the probation office's direction at her own expense.

The probation office ordered Thomas to submit to a drug test on May 30, 2012. Thomas appeared as scheduled, but she claimed that she had no money to pay for the test and was therefore turned away without being tested. The probation office demanded that she submit to drug testing about two weeks later. This time Thomas did not appear at all; she called the probation office and left a voicemail message saying that she could not attend because she was in Mankato caring for her sick daughter and that, in any event, she had no money to pay for the test even if she were present.

The state accused Thomas of violating her conditions of release, and the district court commenced a hearing on July 9, 2012. The district court continued the hearing for three days to give the probation office time to explore any drug testing options that did not require Thomas to pay. At the July 12, 2012 hearing, the probation officer reported that the county had no funds to pay for drug testing. The district court then found that Thomas had violated the conditions of her release by failing to undergo drug testing. It revised its release conditions in an amended order stating that Thomas would either be unconditionally released on $25, 000 bail or conditionally released on $500 bail subject to the original drug-testing requirement at her cost. The order directed Thomas to report to jail by July 19, 2012, if she failed to post bail under either alternative. Thomas failed to post bail and reported to jail on July 19, 2012.

Thomas moved the district court to modify the conditions of her release. The district court heard the motion and found that Thomas's bail was appropriately set based on rule 6.02 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure. In denying Thomas's bail challenge, the district court found that Thomas's conditions of release-that she abstain from the use of controlled substances and submit to random testing at her own expense- "[were] particularly important as the defendant is a self-admitted cocaine and marijuana user." The court stated that only testing ...

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