Becker County District Court File No. 03-CR-11-1837
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Karen Skoyles, Briggs, Ramstad & Skoyles, P.A., Detroit Lakes, Minnesota (for respondent)
Mark D. Nyvold, Special Assistant State Public Defender, Fridley, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of intent to escape the vehicle-registration fee in violation of Minn. Stat. § 168.35 (2010), arguing that the evidence was insufficient to convict him. Appellant also submitted a pro se supplemental brief in which he makes a number of additional arguments. Because the evidence was sufficient to convict appellant of the offense charged and because his pro se arguments are without merit, we affirm.
At 1:09 a.m. on July 21, 2011, Officer Matt Brun of the Detroit Lakes Police Department saw a Cadillac parked by the side of the road on North Shore Drive. He observed a person, later identified as appellant Duane Charles Hansen, standing outside of the vehicle. Officer Brun spoke briefly with Hansen, who said that he was checking his vehicle's headlights. After Officer Brun departed, he ran the vehicle's license-plate number and learned that the plates were assigned to a 1994 Dodge. Officer Brun turned around and began looking for the Cadillac, which he found parked on the shoulder of Highway 10, also in Detroit Lakes.
Officer Brun asked Hansen about the plates and where the vehicle was from. Hansen said that he had purchased the vehicle from someone in Elbow Lake "a while ago." Hansen stated that he took the plates from a vehicle in a junkyard in Twin Valley and that he knew that they did not belong to the Cadillac. When Officer Brun asked Hansen why he had not changed the title or updated the plates, Hansen said that "it cost too much money." When Officer Brun checked the Cadillac's vehicle-identification number, he was unable to find any registration on file in Minnesota, South Dakota, or North Dakota.
Officer Chad Glander responded to Officer Brun's traffic stop as backup. Officer Glander testified that he also spoke with Hansen, and Hansen told him that he owned the Cadillac. Officer Glander could not recall whether Hansen told him how long ago he had purchased the vehicle. Hansen told Officer Glander that he had gotten the plates from a junked vehicle or from a vehicle at a wrecking yard and that he knew the plates did not belong to the Cadillac. When Officer Glander told Hansen that he believed that Hansen was avoiding the vehicle-registration tax, he testified that Hansen's response was "yes and no." Hansen explained that he intended to buy the tabs, but he did not have the money.
Officer Brun had the Cadillac towed, and Hansen was charged with one count of intent to escape tax, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 168.35, and one count of failure to provide proof of insurance, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.791 (2010). The state later dropped the second count and filed an amended complaint, charging Hansen with illegal use of plates, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 168.36 (2010).
During the one-day bench trial, Hansen testified that at the time of the stop, he was "trying [the Cadillac] out" and had not yet purchased it. He stated that he decided not to buy the vehicle and returned it the next day. He testified that he had assumed that the Cadillac was registered and did not know that the Cadillac's plates did not match the vehicle until the officers mentioned it. Hansen further testified that he did not put another vehicle's plates on the Cadillac and that if the officers believed that he had said otherwise during the stop, it was a misunderstanding. When asked whether he told the officers that he couldn't afford to register the vehicle, Hansen said that he "may have" said so, because he "didn't have a lot of funds" to purchase the vehicle or to "bring the license current."
The district court found Hansen guilty of both counts of the amended complaint. The district court concluded that the state proved ...