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State v. Mikulak

Supreme Court of Minnesota

November 15, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Juanel Anthony Mikulak, Appellant.

         Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Veronica M. Surges, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota;

          David Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Glen Jacobsen, Assistant County Attorney, Olivia, Minnesota; and

          Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant Renville County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         1. When the charged offense prohibits a knowing violation of a statutory provision, ignorance of the law is a defense because it negates the existence of the required mens rea.

         2. Appellant's guilty plea was not accurate because statements made by appellant, which were never withdrawn or corrected, negated the mens rea element of the charged offense.

         Reversed and remanded.

          OPINION

          ANDERSON, JUSTICE.

         At a plea hearing, appellant Juanel Anthony Mikulak pleaded guilty to the offense of knowingly violating a provision of the predatory offender registration statute, Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5(a) (2016). As part of the factual basis for his guilty plea, Mikulak told the district court that he "now" understood that subdivision 3a of the statute required him to register with law enforcement within 24 hours of entering Renville County. On appeal, Mikulak argued that the factual basis for his guilty plea was inadequate because he made statements that negated the mens rea element of the charged offense-specifically, that when he entered Renville County, he believed that he had 1 week to register and that he did not remember the 24-hour reporting requirement. The court of appeals affirmed his conviction, reasoning that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Because ignorance of the law is a defense when the charged offense prohibits a knowing violation of a statutory provision, we reverse the court of appeals and remand to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS

         As a result of a 2008 conviction, Mikulak is required to register under the predatory-offender-registration statute, Minn. Stat. § 243.166 (2016). In 2014, he moved in with L.M. at her residence in St. Cloud. Mikulak registered the St. Cloud address as his primary residence. At some point between late September and mid-October, Mikulak left the St. Cloud residence at L.M.'s request. After he left, Mikulak met with a Stearns County social worker and told her that he was homeless. Mikulak then contacted a friend, D.T., who agreed to pick up Mikulak from St. Cloud, drive him to her home in Renville County, and allow him to stay with her. According to D.T., Mikulak stayed at her home on October 16, 17, and 19. During that time, Mikulak never registered as a predatory offender in Renville County.[1]

         On October 21, Mikulak was arrested and charged under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5(a), which makes it a crime to "knowingly violate" any part of the predatory-offender-registration statute. Specifically, the State alleged that Mikulak knowingly violated subdivision 3a, paragraphs (a) and (c), which require a predatory offender who leaves a primary residence without obtaining a new primary residence to register within 24 hours of leaving the primary residence and within 24 hours of entering a new jurisdiction.

         Mikulak moved to dismiss the charge for lack of probable cause. In response, the State submitted several documents without objection. These documents included an intake summary from the Stearns County social worker, stating that on October 16, Mikulak told her that he had been homeless for a week. They also included a statement from D.T., stating that Mikulak stayed at her residence in Renville County on October 16, 17, and 19. Finally, the State submitted the predatory-offender-registration form that Mikulak signed in 2008 informing him of the 24-hour-registration requirement. The district court denied the motion to dismiss.

         Two days later, Mikulak pleaded guilty to the offense of knowingly violating a provision of the predatory-offender-registration statute. As part of the factual basis for his guilty plea, Mikulak told the district court that he did not register as a predatory offender in Renville County "because [he] assumed [he] had a week" to do so. When the district court asked whether, after having discussed the case with defense counsel, Mikulak was satisfied that the 7-day registration period did not apply in his case, Mikulak replied, "Yeah, now I am." Mikulak also agreed that it was "a fair statement" that he had been informed of the 24-hour registration requirement in the past. Nevertheless, he affirmed that "at the time [he] moved down [to Renville County, he] didn't remember that that's what [he was] told." The district court accepted Mikulak's guilty plea and imposed a presumptive 36-month sentence.

         Mikulak appealed, arguing that the factual basis for his guilty plea was inadequate because of his statements that negated the mens rea element of the charged offense- specifically, that when he entered Renville County, he believed that he had 1 week to register and did not remember the 24-hour reporting requirement. The court of appeals affirmed, and we granted Mikulak's petition for review.

         ANALYSIS

         I.

         Once a guilty plea has been entered, there is no absolute right to withdraw it. Shorter v. State, 511 N.W.2d 743, 746 (Minn. 1994). But a defendant may withdraw a guilty plea when withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice. Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1. A manifest injustice occurs when a plea is not accurate, voluntary, or intelligent. Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 688 (Minn. 1997). The accuracy requirement protects the defendant from pleading guilty to a charge more serious than he could have been convicted of at trial. State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1994). For a guilty plea to be accurate, a proper factual basis must be established. State v. Theis, 742 N.W.2d 643, 647 (Minn. 2007). Although a plea petition and colloquy may be supplemented by other evidence to establish the factual basis for a guilty plea, Lussier v. State, 821 N.W.2d 581, 589 (Minn. 2012), a factual ...


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