Donald G. Heilman Appellant,
Patrick C. Courtney, as Program Manager for Minnesota Department of Corrections, Respondent.
of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Brown, Capitol City Law Group, LLC, Saint Paul, Minnesota,
Ellison, Attorney General, Janine Kimble, Assistant Attorney
General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
William Ward, Minnesota State Public Defender, Cathryn
Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Board of Public
Mahesha P. Subbaraman, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus
curiae Appellate Practice Section of the Minnesota State Bar
issue of when a felon's conditional-release term began
under Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d) (2018), was
sufficiently raised below and was properly before the court
felon who participated in the Challenge Incarceration
Program, Minn. Stat. §§ 244.17-.173 (2018), was
"released from prison" for purposes of his
conditional-release term under Minn. Stat. § 169A.276,
subd. 1(d), when he entered phase II of the Program.
Donald Heilman, a participant in the Challenge Incarceration
Program administered by the Department of Corrections
(Department), contends that he was "released from
prison" within the meaning of Minn. Stat. §
169A.276, subd. 1(d) (2018), when he entered phase II of that
program. Heilman asserts that, under the correct statutory
analysis, the State failed to calculate his
conditional-release term correctly and revoked his
conditional release improperly after it had already
ended. The district court granted judgment on the
pleadings to the State on Heilman's ensuing
false-imprisonment and negligence claims, and the court of
appeals affirmed. Heilman v. Courtney, 906 N.W.2d
521, 526 (Minn.App. 2017). We reverse and remand to the court
September 13, 2004, Heilman was sentenced to a stayed
51-month prison sentence for a conviction of first-degree
driving while impaired (DWI). See Minn. Stat. §
169A.24 (2018). The district court also imposed a 5-year
conditional-release term as required by law. See
Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d) ("[W]hen the
court commits a person to the custody of the commissioner of
corrections [for first-degree DWI], it shall provide that
after the person has been released from prison the
commissioner shall place the person on conditional release
for five years."). Following a probation revocation
hearing, Heilman's prison sentence was executed on May
December 2007, Heilman entered the Department's Challenge
Incarceration Program (Program). See Minn. Stat.
§§ 244.17-.173 (2018). The Program consists of
three statutory phases. See Minn. Stat. §
244.172 (laying out phases). Phase I, commonly called
"boot camp," restricts participants to confinement
"at the Minnesota Correctional Facility - Willow
River/Moose Lake or the Minnesota Correctional Facility -
Togo[.]" Id., subd. 1. While confined, phase I
participants receive "[i]ntensive instruction in
military drill and ceremony, military bearing, customs, and
courtesy." Minn. Dep't of Corr., Policies,
Directives and Instructions Manual, Policy 204.060, at
(C)(4) (Nov. 7, 2017) [opinion attachment]. They also
participate in chemical-dependency-treatment programs and
work programs. Minn. Stat. § 244.172, subd. 1.
finished phase I boot camp in July 2008 and entered phase II
of the Program, which allowed him to live at his home. Though
at his home, Heilman remained subject to "intensive
supervision and surveillance." Minn. Stat. §
244.172, subd. 2. The Department characterizes a phase II
participant as committed to "house arrest." Minn.
Dep't of Corr., Policies, Directives and Instructions
Manual, Division Directive 204.061, at (J)(4) (July 26,
2016) [opinion attachment]. The phase II participant is
subject to random drug testing. Minn. Stat. § 244.172,
subd. 2. Department agents "must have reasonable access
to the offender's residence on an ongoing basis."
Division Directive 204.061, at (J)(2). "Access may occur
any time of the day or night." Id. A phase II
participant has limited social time. See id. at
(J)(4) (allowing more social time as progress is made through
phases II and III). The Department sets a curfew, limits
visitors, and must preapprove social activities, including
religious worship. Id. at (J)(4)-(6). Much of the
participant's phase II time must be spent engaging in
"constructive activity." See id. at (J)(7)
("All offenders must spend a minimum of 40 hours weekly
in pre-approved constructive activity which includes
employment, employment-seeking, education, treatment,
Sentencing to Service, or community service work.").
moved to North Branch as he entered phase II. During the
subsequent 18 months, Heilman secured work with several
employers. He progressed from phase II to phase III in
January 2009. Had Heilman successfully completed phase III,
he would have been "placed on supervised release for the
remainder of the sentence." See Minn. Stat.
§ 244.172, subd. 3. But, in April 2009, the Department
returned him to phase II because he failed to remain sober. A
few months later, Heilman again failed to remain sober. The
Department then revoked his conditional release and ordered
his return to custody.
December 27, 2010, the Department released Heilman. By this
date, Heilman had served two-thirds of his original 51-month
sentence, the statutorily required minimum "term of
imprisonment." See Minn. Stat. § 244.101,
subd. 1 (2018). The parties stipulated that Heilman began his
supervised release on this date.
March 12, 2014, Heilman was arrested for failing to complete
inpatient chemical dependency treatment. On March 25, the
Department held a hearing and revoked Heilman's release
for 180 days from the date of arrest, but the Department then
released Heilman on May 14. Why the Department released
Heilman 50 days after this hearing, and 63 days after his
arrest, is not clear from the record.
2016, Heilman filed a complaint against Courtney, the
Department's program manager, asserting claims against
the State for negligence and false imprisonment. His
complaint alleged the following:
• "By law, the conditional release period began
after the plaintiff was released from prison."
• "Plaintiff was released from prison on July 9,
2008, to the Challenge Incarceration Program (also know[n] as
• "Release to the boot camp program triggers the
start of the conditional release period."
• "Five years from July 2008 is July 2013."
• "The plaintiff s conditional release period
therefore expired sometime in July of 2013."
• "In the plaintiff's case, he was imprisoned
until May of 2014-nearly a year beyond his lawful
asserts, consequently, that he had served his
conditional-release term, and his incarceration for
approximately 60 days in March, April, and May 2014 was not
authorized by law.
district court granted the State's motion for judgment on
the pleadings and dismissed Heilman's claims with
prejudice, concluding that Heilman failed to establish that
the State intentionally caused his confinement beyond his
release date or owed him a duty. Additionally, the district
court held that Heilman's confinement was legally
justifiable, which is a defense to a claim of false
imprisonment, and that Heilman's common-law claims were
barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87
(1994) (holding that actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that
necessarily invalidate the existence or duration of a
sentence are not cognizable).
appealed the dismissal of his negligence and
false-imprisonment claims. Concluding that Heilman's
conditional release was properly revoked, the court of
appeals affirmed. Heilman, 906 N.W.2d at 526. The
court first reclassified the district court's order as a
grant of summary judgment because the parties relied on
documents outside the pleadings. See id. at 524. The
court then turned to Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d),
and in particular the meaning of "released from
prison." The court analogized the Challenge
Incarceration Program to work release, another program
administered by the Department. Heilman, 906 N.W.2d
at 525; see Minn. Stat. § 241.26 (2018). It
"rejected the idea that simply leaving the confines of a
correctional facility constitutes a 'release from
prison,' and concluded that the physical location of the
inmate is not determinative." Heilman, 906
N.W.2d at 525 (citing State ex rel. Huseby v. Roy,
903 N.W.2d 633, 636-38 (Minn.App. 2017), petition for
rev. dismissed as moot (Minn. Dec. 27, 2017)). The court
relied on its own precedent that held that" 'both
conditional release and supervised release are mandated to
begin at the same time, i.e., the offender's release from
prison.'" Id. (quoting Maiers v.
Roy, 847 N.W.2d 524, 530 (Minn.App. 2014), rev.
denied (Minn. Aug. 19, 2014)). Based on the parties'
stipulation that Heilman's supervised release began in
December 2010, the court concluded that his
"conditional-release term also commenced in December
2010[.]" Id. Then, because
"appellant's conditional-release term did not expire
until December 2015, and appellant's reincarceration
between March and May of 2014 was lawful," it affirmed.
Id. at 526.
petitioned for review, which we granted.
presented with two issues. First, did the court of appeals
err when it affirmed the legality of Heilman's 2014
incarceration by interpreting Minn. Stat. § 169A.276,
subd. 1(d)? Second, does a Challenge Incarceration Program
participant begin a conditional-release term under Minn.
Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d), when entering phase II of
first address whether the court of appeals erred by
interpreting Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d),
"sua sponte." Heilman claims that the court of
appeals "sua sponte engaged in statutory interpretation
of Minn. Stat. § 169A.276, subd. 1(d) to dispose of the
case, even though the interpretation of Minn. Stat. §
169A.276, subd. 1(d) was not at issue
below." In assigning error, he cites Thiele v.
Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. 1988), and State v.
Morse, 878 N.W.2d 499 (Minn. 2016). The State
agrees that the court of appeals' statutory
interpretation was undertaken sua sponte, because the court
did not address the reasoning of the district court. But