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State v. Moreland

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 25, 2013

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Michael Wayne Moreland, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Rice County District Court File No. 66-CR-13-278.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney, Terence Swihart, Assistant County Attorney, Faribault, Minnesota (for appellant)

David Hvistendahl, Mary L. Hahn, Hvistendahl, Moersch, Dorsey & Hahn, P.A., Northfield, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Worke, Judge.

SCHELLHAS, Judge

Appellant challenges a dismissal of an indictment, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that the instructions submitted to the grand jury were erroneous. Because the state has not satisfied the critical-impact test, we dismiss the appeal.

FACTS

A Rice County grand jury returned an indictment against respondent Michael Moreland, finding "probable cause to believe that . . . Moreland caused the death of [K.M.] as a result of operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner" in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(1) (2010). Two prosecutors conducted the grand-jury proceeding in front of 20 jurors. The grand jury returned an indictment of criminal vehicular homicide against Moreland.

Moreland moved for dismissal of the indictment under Minn. Stat. § 628.12 (2010) and Minn. R. Crim. P. 17.02, subd. 2. The district court denied his motion. Moreland then moved for dismissal of the indictment due to alleged prosecutorial errors, including the presentation of inadmissible evidence and the provision of inadequate jury instructions. Respondent State of Minnesota opposed the motion. The district court dismissed the indictment on the basis that Moreland was prejudiced by erroneous jury instructions.

This appeal follows.

DECISION

The state appeals from the district court's dismissal of the indictment against Moreland for criminal vehicular homicide. "The state may appeal as a matter of right a pretrial order dismissing an indictment." State v. Eibensteiner, 690 N.W.2d 140, 148 (Minn.App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Mar. 15, 2005); see Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.04, subd. 1(1) ("The prosecutor may appeal as of right to the Court of Appeals . . . in any case, from any pretrial order."). But "[t]he ability of the State to appeal is limited." State v. Borg, 834 N.W.2d 194, 197 (Minn. 2013) (quotation omitted). Under rule 28.04, subdivision 1(1), the state's appeal rights "are restricted in a number of ways, " and, "for the appeal to be considered, as a threshold matter the state must clearly and unequivocally show both that the trial court's order will have a critical impact on the state's ability to prosecute the defendant successfully and that the order constituted error." State v. Barrett, 694 N.W.2d 783, 787 (Minn. 2005) (quotations omitted).

Although, in its statement of the case, the state claims that, unless reversed, the dismissal of the indictment will critically impact its ability to successfully prosecute Moreland for criminal vehicular homicide, the state's brief contains no critical-impact argument, and the omission appears to be intentional. At oral argument, the state maintained ...


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