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State v. Otto

Supreme Court of Minnesota

July 26, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Travis Richard Otto, Appellant.

         Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Kathleen A. Heaney, Sherburne County Attorney, Tim Sime, Assistant County Attorney, Elk River, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jessica Merz Godes, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Daniel J. Koewler, Ramsay Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Roseville, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

          Robert Small, Executive Director, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Phillip D. Prokopowicz, Chief Deputy Dakota County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

         SYLLABUS

         1. A person convicted of a controlled substance offense for which the controlled substance weight threshold was increased by section 3 of the Drug Sentencing Reform Act before his conviction was final is not entitled to have the conviction reversed.

         2. The amelioration doctrine requires the resentencing of a person whose conviction was not yet final on the effective date of section 18(b) of the Drug Sentencing Reform Act.

         Sentence vacated; remanded.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, Justice.

         Appellant Travis Richard Otto was sentenced to 135 months in prison for first-degree possession of methamphetamine, Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2(a)(1) (2014). While his case was on appeal, the Drug Sentencing Reform Act (DSRA) took effect. See Act of May 22, 2016, ch. 160, 2016 Minn. Laws 576. The DSRA reduced the presumptive sentencing range under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines drug offender sentencing grid, and increased the controlled substance weight threshold for Otto's crime. Otto asks that we either reverse his conviction or vacate his sentence and remand his case for resentencing under the DSRA-amended sentencing grid.

         FACTS

         On August 1, 2013, Otto was arrested with five baggies of suspected methamphetamine after crashing his vehicle into an electrical pole. Two of the baggies were tested and contained "over 29 grams" of methamphetamine. He was charged with first-degree possession of methamphetamine and fourth-degree driving while impaired. Otto waived his right to a jury trial, and the district court found him guilty of both charges.

         The case proceeded to sentencing. Otto had a criminal history score of 12. Under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines in effect at the time of Otto's offense, his presumptive sentencing range was 135 to 189 months. See Minn. Sent. Guidelines 4.A (2013). On June 11, 2015, the district court ...


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