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State v. Howard

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 18, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Donzel Coleon Howard, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Washington County District Court File No. 82CR111156

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Pete Orput, Washington County Attorney, Karin L. McCarthy, Assistant County Attorney, Stillwater, Minnesota (for respondent)

Jeremy L. Byellin, Susan E. Byellin, Byellin Law, PLLC, St. Louis Park, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

STONEBURNER, Judge

Appellant, who is required to register as a predatory offender, challenges his conviction of knowingly violating a registration requirement by failing to register a motor vehicle "regularly driven by" him as required by Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 4a(a)(6) (2010). Appellant asserts that (1) the vehicle-registration requirement is unconstitutionally vague; (2) the district court misapplied the requirement that appellant knowingly violated the vehicle-registration requirement; (3) there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that he knowingly violated the vehicle-registration requirement; and (4) the district court's written order does not reflect that the district court applied the appropriate burden of proof in finding that appellant knowingly violated the requirement. Because appellant's conduct plainly fell within the terms of the statute, the district court did not misapply the element requiring a knowing violation, the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction, the district court applied the appropriate burden of proof, and appellant's constitutional argument is not persuasive, we affirm.

FACTS

As a result of an adjudication of delinquency in May 2005, appellant Donzel Coleon Howard, who is now an adult, is required to register as a predatory offender with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for ten years from the date of the adjudication. Under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 4a(a)(6), a person who is required to register must provide to the appropriate authority "the year, model, make, license plate number, and color of all motor vehicles owned or regularly driven by the person."

On March 6, 2011, a red Ford Crown Victoria (the car), owned by and registered to Howard's father but driven by Howard, was stopped for traffic and equipment violations. The officer who made the stop determined that Howard had a suspended driver's license and had not registered any vehicles with the BCA. Howard was charged, in relevant part, with knowingly violating registration requirements for failing to register the car in violation of Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5(a) (2010), a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10, 000 fine.[1] Howard waived a jury trial.

At the bench trial, the state presented the testimony of a law-enforcement officer who stopped the car, driven by Howard, for equipment violations on February 26, 2011, and the testimony of the officer who made the March 6 stop. The officer who made the March 6 stop testified that, during the stop, Howard said that he drove the car on a regular basis but did not think he needed to register the car because he did not own it.

The state also presented the testimony of the March 6 passengers. Howard's friend testified that she had been a passenger in the car driven by Howard about six times over the course of the month prior to the March 6 stop. She testified that Howard had driven her to work on four or five occasions and was driving her for errands on March 6. She testified that she heard the conversation between the officer and Howard and that Howard had told the officer that he drove the car when he could get it from his father, but did not tell the officer that he drove the car regularly. Howard's cousin testified that he had seen Howard drive the car three or four times over the period of about a week and that one of those occasions was to take cousin to the hospital. Cousin testified that he heard the officer asking Howard questions and that Howard did not really say anything in response.

At the beginning of his case in chief, Howard moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 4a(a)(6) is unconstitutionally vague because "regularly" is not defined sufficiently to give a defendant notice of the legal registration requirements. The court denied his motion.

Howard testified that he did not believe that his use of the car was regular and that he never told the officer that he drove the car regularly. He stated that he drove the car four or five times over a three-month period beginning in December of 2010, when he got his driver's license. Howard stated that he drove the car to take his mother on errands and to help cousin during his cousin's illness. Howard testified that these trips often happened on the same day, and he explained that when he took friend to work, it was because her job was on his way ...


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