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State v. Larsen

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 21, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Brandon Ray Larsen, Appellant.

         Stearns County District Court File No. 73-CR-15-10985

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, Michael J. Lieberg, Assistant County Attorney, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Sara J. Euteneuer, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Bratvold, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         For purposes of Minnesota Statutes section 169.09, subdivision 5 (2014), which requires a driver involved in a collision with a fixture to notify the owner of property damage, the term "fixture" does not include a house.

          OPINION

          JESSON, JUDGE

         The driver of a white Pontiac Grand Am struck a home and crashed into an unoccupied car before fleeing on foot. Appellant Brandon Ray Larsen was arrested a few blocks from the hit-and-run collisions. After a jury trial, he was convicted of driving while impaired, failing to notify the owner of the collision with the unattended car, as well as failing to notify the owner of the damaged house. Larsen appeals his convictions and sentence. He argues, in part, that the duty to stop and notify a property owner of damage applies only to "fixtures" under Minnesota Statutes section 169.09, subdivision 5 (2014). Because a house is not a fixture as a matter of law, we reverse in part and remand to vacate his adjudicated conviction under this statute. But because Larsen's other claims on appeal fail, we affirm in part.

         FACTS

         In December 2015, the driver of a Pontiac hit the side of a home and an unattended car in St. Cloud before fleeing the scene. Shortly thereafter, local police arrested Larsen, who was jogging about two blocks from the accident. Larsen had an alcohol concentration of 0.253. In a Mirandized statement to police, Larsen admitted to drinking and to driving the Pontiac that evening. But he denied any involvement in the hit-and-run collisions.

         Larsen was charged with two counts of felony driving while impaired, [1] failing to notify the owner of property damage to an unattended vehicle, and failing to notify the owner of property damage to a fixture. See Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5) (2014), 169.09, subds. 4, 5, 14(c), (e) (2014).

         At trial, two witnesses testified that the driver of the Pontiac met Larsen's description, although they described the color of the driver's sweatshirt differently. Larsen's friend, C.H., testified that he was in fact the driver, not Larsen. After the two-day jury trial, Larsen was found guilty of all charges. The district court sentenced Larsen to 78 months' imprisonment and five years of conditional release on one conviction of driving while impaired. The district court also sentenced Larsen to 90 days in jail for his conviction of failing to notify the owner of property damage to an unattended vehicle. Two counts (including the failure to notify the home owner of damage) were left unsentenced. Larsen appeals.

         ISSUES

         I. Does a house constitute a fixture under Minnesota Statutes section 169.09, subdivision 5?

         II. Did the state present sufficient evidence that Larsen was the driver of the Pontiac to sustain his convictions?

         III. Did the district court plainly err when it failed to instruct the ...


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