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State v. Thomas

Supreme Court of Minnesota

March 22, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Quintin Lynn Thomas, Appellant.

         Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Gunnar B. Johnson, Duluth City Attorney, Joanne R. Piper-Maurer, Marcus E. Jones, Assistant City Attorneys, Duluth, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Charles F. Clippert, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Although a district court may not reserve its ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's case, the court is not required to rule on the motion before ruling on the State's motion to reopen its case-in-chief.

         2. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the State to reopen its case-in-chief in response to appellant's motion for judgment of acquittal.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          GILDEA, Chief Justice.

         The question presented in this case is whether a district court may allow the State to reopen its case-in-chief before ruling on the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State's case. After the State rested, appellant Quintin Lynn Thomas made a motion for judgment of acquittal, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the charged offense. In response, the State asked to reopen its case-in-chief. The district court granted the State's request before considering Thomas' motion for judgment of acquittal. After granting the State's request to reopen, the court denied Thomas' motion for judgment of acquittal and the jury found Thomas guilty. Because we conclude that the district court did not err when it granted the State's motion to reopen its case-in-chief before considering Thomas' motion for judgment of acquittal, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Thomas was arrested for being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Around 4 a.m., a police officer noticed a pickup truck with its engine running. When the officer approached the truck, he found Thomas asleep in the front seat, with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. The officer woke Thomas and observed indicia of intoxication. He asked Thomas to perform field sobriety tests, which Thomas did not pass. The officer arrested Thomas and took him to the police station, where another officer administered a breath test that showed Thomas' blood alcohol concentration at .16 just before 5 a.m.

         The State charged Thomas with gross misdemeanor second-degree driving while impaired, Minn. Stat. § 169A.25, subd. 1(a) (2016) (defining second-degree driving while impaired as operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle within two hours of having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more if the offense is committed within 10 years of "two or more aggravating factors").[1] According to the State, Thomas' offense was a gross misdemeanor because Thomas committed the current offense within 10 years of his commission of two qualifying prior impaired driving incidents. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 3 (2016).[2] Specifically, the State relied on Thomas' 2007 Minnesota loss of license, related to impaired driving, and his 2006 Wisconsin conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

         Thomas pleaded not guilty and his case went to trial. During pre-trial proceedings, defense counsel advised Thomas to stipulate to the two prior impaired driving incidents, explaining on the record that the State would likely be able to establish those incidents. Defense counsel showed Thomas certified copies of his driving record, which included the 2007 loss of license, and a certified copy of his 2006 Wisconsin conviction. The State pre-marked the certified copies as Exhibits 2 and 3. Thomas declined to stipulate to the prior incidents. In the same pre-trial proceeding, the State agreed to redact certain portions of the certified copies.

         The matter then proceeded to trial. The State presented its case-in-chief, calling two witnesses-the police officers involved in the case-to show that Thomas was in physical control of a motor vehicle within 2 hours of having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. But the State rested without offering the certified copies showing Thomas' prior impaired driving incidents.

         Outside the jury's presence, Thomas made a "motion for a directed verdict to the charge of second degree DWI."[3] Thomas argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the charged offense without the certified copies showing the prior incidents. The prosecutor responded that she had the certified copies "here." The district ...


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