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State v. Meger

Supreme Court of Minnesota

September 20, 2017

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Brian William Meger, Respondent.

         Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Ronald Hocevar, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, First Assistant Scott County Attorney, Shakopee, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Amy Lawler, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         State v. Her, 862 N.W.2d 692 (Minn. 2015), announced a new rule of constitutional criminal procedure that does not apply to the collateral review of respondent's sentence.

         Reversed.

          OPINION

          McKEIG, Justice.

         In State v. Her, 862 N.W.2d 692, 696-700 (Minn. 2015), we held that the fact that a defendant was a risk-level-III offender at the time of the offense must be admitted by the defendant or found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt before a court may impose a 10-year period of conditional release as part of a sentence for failing to register as a predatory offender. The issue here is whether Her applies retroactively to sentences that were imposed and became final before Her was decided. In a motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, respondent Brian William Meger argued that his 10-year conditional-release term was illegal because Her applied retroactively to his sentence. The district court granted Meger's motion and vacated the conditional-release term. The court of appeals affirmed. Because we conclude that Her announced a new rule of constitutional criminal procedure that does not apply to the collateral review of Meger's sentence, we reverse.

         FACTS

         Respondent Brian William Meger was required to register as a predatory offender because of a conviction of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1995. See Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1b (2016). In 2005, the State charged Meger with failing to register as a predatory offender, Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subds. 3(b), 5 (2016). A person convicted of failing to register as a predatory offender is subject to a 10-year period of conditional release if the offender was a risk-level-III offender at the time of the offense.[1]See Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a (2006). Although the probable cause portion of the complaint stated that Meger was a risk-level-III offender, the complaint made no reference to conditional release or Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a.

         Following a plea agreement, Meger pleaded guilty to failure to register as a predatory offender in exchange for a 20-month sentence, a downward durational departure. On September 7, 2006, the district court accepted Meger's guilty plea and sentenced him to 20 months in prison. In January 2007, the court received a letter from the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) inquiring whether the court intended to add a 10-year conditional-release term to Meger's sentence based on Meger's risk-level-III status, Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a. In an order signed on January 29, 2007, the district court amended Meger's sentence by adding a 10-year conditional-release term.

         Meger served his 20-month prison sentence, and then remained in prison for approximately 6 additional years because the State could not find appropriate housing for him on conditional release. In June 2014, Meger filed a motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, requesting that his conditional-release term be vacated because a jury had not found that he was a risk-level-III offender at the time he failed to register. The district court denied the motion. Two weeks later, we held in State v. Her, 862 N.W.2d 692, 696-700 (Minn. 2015), that the Sixth Amendment prohibits a court from imposing a 10-year conditional-release term upon a predatory offender under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a, unless the offender admits or a jury finds that he or she was a risk-level-III offender at the time of the failure to register. Meger immediately moved for reconsideration based on our decision in Her.

         The district court granted Meger's motion to reconsider and his motion to correct his sentence. The court applied Her retroactively, and determined that the conditional-release term was unlawful under Her because Meger's risk-level status was based solely on "unestablished, extra-judicial facts" contained in a DOC letter provided after he had been sentenced. The court did not impanel a sentencing jury given the "far from ideal" procedural practices in Meger's case, the substantial time Meger had already served in prison during his conditional-release term, and concerns of complications caused by double jeopardy. The district court vacated Meger's conditional-release term and imposed his original 20-month sentence, the maximum sentence contemplated at the time of the plea agreement. Because Meger had already served that sentence, the district court ordered his immediate release from custody.

         The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Her applies retroactively because it was "merely an application of the Sixth Amendment jury-trial right that governed the Minnesota Supreme Court's previous decisions in" State v. Jones, 659 N.W.2d 748');">659 N.W.2d 748 (Minn. 2003), and State v. Grossman, 636 N.W.2d 545 (Minn. 2001), and U.S. Supreme Court Sixth ...


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