Clay County District Court File No. 14-CR-11-2398 Hudson, Judge.
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Brian J. Melton, Clay County Attorney, Heidi M. F. Davies, Assistant County Attorney, Moorhead, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Lydia Villalva Lijó, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
A conviction of obstructing legal process under Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(1) (2010) requires that a person's conduct obstructs or hinders the lawful execution of legal process or the apprehension of another person in connection with that process.
Appellant challenges her gross-misdemeanor convictions of assault on a peace officer and obstructing legal process, arguing that the circumstantial evidence is insufficient to prove that she intended to inflict, or attempt to inflict, bodily harm on the officer and that her conduct did not meet the required elements for conviction of obstructing legal process under Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(1) (2010). Because the evidence is sufficient to support appellant's conviction of assault, we affirm that conviction. But because appellant's conduct did not obstruct or hinder action taken in connection with the lawful execution of legal process or apprehension of another related to that process, as required under subdivision 1(1), we reverse appellant's obstructing-legal-process conviction and remand for resentencing.
Two Moorhead police officers, responding to a report of a possible domestic assault, heard loud yelling coming from an apartment. When they knocked on the door, appellant Kery Marie Pederson opened it, appearing intoxicated and upset. The officers noticed that she had a small amount of blood on her finger, but they could not identify its source. Appellant stepped out into the hallway and immediately tried to shut the door, but an officer placed a foot in the door to prevent it from shutting. Appellant appeared evasive and would not answer the officers' questions; although she told them that she was home alone, they could hear loud rustling from inside the apartment. Believing that she may need assistance, they decided to enter the apartment. Appellant tried to block their entry, and an altercation ensued. While one officer checked the apartment, the other officer restrained appellant. She attempted to free herself and, in the process, she kicked the officer on the head, behind the ear. He later told the other officer that he "saw stars."
The officers arrested appellant, and the state charged her with one count of gross-misdemeanor fourth-degree assault on a peace officer, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2231, subd. 1 (2010), and one count of gross-misdemeanor obstructing legal process, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(1) (2010). At appellant's motion hearing to suppress evidence resulting from the warrantless entry and seizure, the restraining officer testified that he wrestled appellant to the ground when she began to run after the other officer, and that as she was being held, she wrapped her feet around his waist and locked her feet together. He testified that when he broke free and attempted to move her, she kicked him on the left side of the head.
Appellant testified that she may have been yelling because she was angry that her boyfriend walked in on her with another man and that when the officers arrived, a male was there, but he jumped out a back window. She stated that although she was intoxicated, she remembered most of what happened, and she may have initiated physical contact when the officers pushed the door open. She testified that she was "pretty uncooperative, " but that she did not want the officers there, and she believed she did not need to talk to them.
The district court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that the officers were justified in making a warrantless entry because they had an objectively reasonable basis to believe that an occupant was imminently threatened with serious injury. The parties agreed to submit the matter on stipulated facts, and the district court found appellant guilty of both counts. The district court sentenced appellant to 365 ...