Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-CR-17-2523
Swanson, Attorney General, and Mark A. Ostrem, Olmsted County
Attorney, Byron H. Black, Assistant County Attorney, (for
Zachary C. Bauer, Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., (for
Considered and decided by Bratvold, Presiding Judge; Larkin,
Judge; and Florey, Judge.
probable-cause standard applies when determining whether the
law and proffered evidence support submission of an
aggravating sentencing factor to the jury under Minnesota
Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.04, subdivision 2(a).
state appeals a district court's pretrial denial of a
request to submit aggravating sentencing factors to a jury.
Because the district court failed to apply the probable-cause
standard when determining whether the law and proffered
evidence would support an aggravated sentence, we reverse.
state charged respondent Donyale Damon Gayles with three
counts of aggravated first-degree sale of a controlled
substance; four counts of first-degree sale of a controlled
substance; one count of first-degree possession of a
controlled substance; and three counts of child endangerment
(possession of a controlled substance), after officers
orchestrated three controlled purchases of cocaine from
respondent. The controlled purchases occurred at
respondent's home. During two of the controlled
purchases, children were present in respondent's home.
Officers executed a search warrant of the home and discovered
over 180 grams of cocaine and an unattended child.
state provided notice of its intent to seek an aggravated
sentence and an upward departure, citing two aggravating
factors: the drug offenses were committed in the presence of
a child, and respondent has two or more prior violent-crime
convictions and is a danger to public safety. The state
thereafter moved for a court determination under Minn. R.
Crim. P. 11.04, subd. 2(a), of whether the law and proffered
evidence supported an aggravated sentence. Respondent argued
that the state could not prove that a child witnessed the
drug sales, and that the evidence did not support a finding
that he is a danger to public safety.
district court denied the state's motion to present
aggravating factors to the jury. The district court indicated
that "motions for aggravated sentences are not governed
by a particular standard, " but then stated that it
considered the state's evidence concerning whether the
offenses were committed in the presence of children "in
the light most favorable to the [s]tate." The district
court found that there was no evidence that the children saw,
heard, or otherwise witnessed the drug sales during the
controlled purchases, and that the fact that children
"could" have reached the controlled substances was
not sufficient to support an aggravated sentence. The
district court also concluded that there was insufficient
evidence to present to a jury the issue of whether respondent
is a danger to public safety, as his criminal history did not
indicate a high frequency of dangerous crimes, and he had
demonstrated lengthy periods of noncriminal behavior.