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State v. Jama

Supreme Court of Minnesota

February 27, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Mohamed Musa Jama, Appellant.

          Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Jennifer Saunders, Assistant City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rachel Bond, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. Our previous interpretations of the indecent-exposure statute, Minn. Stat. § 617.23, subd. 2 (2018), did not add the element of specific intent.

         2. The plain and unambiguous language of the indecent-exposure statute creates a general-intent crime.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          MCKEIG, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Mohamed Musa Jama was convicted of gross-misdemeanor indecent exposure for conduct that occurred on a public sidewalk in the presence of children who were under the age of 16. On appeal, Jama contends that the indecent-exposure statute, Minn. Stat. § 617.23, subd. 2 (2018), requires the State to prove that he engaged in conduct with a specific intent to be lewd and, therefore, the court of appeals erred when it affirmed the district court's denial of his request for a jury instruction on the defense of voluntary intoxication. Because the indecent-exposure statute does not require the State to prove that the defendant had a specific intent to be lewd, we affirm.[1]

         FACTS

         On July 5, 2015, Jama approached a family gathering in the front yard of a home in south Minneapolis. While standing on the public sidewalk, Jama pulled out his penis and fondled it with his hands as he gyrated his body in a manner that simulated sexual intercourse. At one point during the exposure, he was within 5 feet of 4 young children- 2 infants, a 6-year old, and a 12-year old. After an unsuccessful attempt to stop Jama from exposing himself, a witness called 911. Jama was arrested at the scene.

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged Jama with indecent exposure in the presence of a minor under the age of 16. See Minn. Stat. § 617.23, subd. 2. Jama gave notice to the State of his intent to assert the defense of voluntary intoxication. Concluding that the indecent-exposure statute creates a general-intent crime, the district court denied Jama's request that the jury be instructed on the defense of voluntary intoxication because that defense only applies to specific-intent crimes. The jury found Jama guilty, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. We granted Jama's petition for review.

         ANALYSIS

         Resolution of Jama's appeal requires a review of the difference between general and specific intent crimes. An offense is considered a general-intent crime "[w]hen a statute simply prohibits a person from intentionally engaging in the prohibited conduct." State v. Fleck, 810 N.W.2d 303, 308 (Minn. 2012) (citing 1 Wayne R. LaFave, Substantive Criminal Law § 5.2(e) (2d ed. 2003) (explaining that general intent requires an "intention to make the bodily movement which constitutes the act which the crime requires")). Put differently, a general-intent crime requires the State to prove that the offender committed the prohibited act volitionally or deliberately, as opposed to accidentally. Fleck, 810 N.W.2d at 310-12. "It is not necessary that [the offender] intend the resulting harm or know that his conduct is criminal. So long as the offender has voluntarily done the act, the ...


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