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Lowe v. Roy

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 22, 2013

Michael Carlton Lowe, Sr., Appellant,
v.
Tom Roy, Commissioner of Corrections, et al., Respondents.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Chisago County District Court File No. 13-CV-12-1094

Michael Carlton Lowe, Sr., Rush City, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Kelly S. Kemp, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and

Krista Jean Guinn Fink, Minnesota Department of Corrections, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.

CHUTICH, Judge

Appellant Michael Carlton Lowe, Sr., challenges the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that a sentencing error renders his restraint illegal and that the district court should have granted him an evidentiary hearing on his petition. Because the district court did not err in concluding that Lowe's argument is an improper collateral attack on his conviction or in denying an evidentiary hearing, we affirm.

FACTS

Lowe was convicted in 2007 of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree assault, and terroristic threats. After the district court sentenced him to 360 months in prison, he appealed and this court affirmed the convictions. State v. Lowe, No. A07-2321, 2009 WL 437493 (Minn.App. Feb. 24, 2009), review denied (Minn. May 27, 2009). Lowe then unsuccessfully petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus three times. In denying Lowe's third petition, the district court concluded that no evidentiary hearing was warranted and that Lowe could not challenge his criminal conviction in a habeas proceeding. Lowe now appeals this denial.

DECISION

In reviewing a district court's denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, we give the district court's factual findings great weight and we will sustain the findings if they are reasonably supported by the evidence. Aziz v. Fabian, 791 N.W.2d 567, 569 (Minn.App. 2010). We review questions of law de novo. Id.; State ex rel. Guth v. Fabian, 716 N.W.2d 23, 26 (Minn.App. 2006), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2006).

A writ of habeas corpus is a civil remedy that allows a prisoner to obtain relief from unlawful imprisonment or restraint. Minn. Stat. § 589.01 (2012). The writ may only be used "to raise claims involving fundamental constitutional rights and significant restraints on a defendant's liberty or to challenge the conditions of confinement." Guth, 716 N.W.2d at 26–27; see also Beaulieu v. Minn. Dep't of Human Servs., 798 N.W.2d 542, 546–48 (Minn.App. 2011) (stating that habeas relief is available only for alleged jurisdictional defects and constitutional violations), aff'd, 825 N.W.2d 716 (Minn. 2013).

A writ of habeas corpus is not available to "persons committed or detained by virtue of the final judgment of a competent tribunal of civil or criminal jurisdiction." Minn. Stat. § 589.01. The writ may not be used as a substitute for direct appeal, to address issues previously raised, or to collaterally attack a judgment. See Breeding v. Utecht, 239 Minn. 137, 139–40, 59 N.W.2d 314, 316 (1953) (stating that a writ of habeas corpus "may not be used as a substitute for a writ of error or appeal or a motion to correct, amend, or vacate nor as a means to collaterally attack the judgment"); Kelsey v. State, 283 N.W.2d 892, 893–94 (Minn. 1979) (stating that when direct appeal and postconviction remedies are available to raise claims, a petitioner may not "use habeas corpus as a means of ...


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