of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Ronald
Hocevar, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, First
Assistant Scott County Attorney, Shakopee, Minnesota, for
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Steven
P. Russett, Assistant Appellate Public Defender, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for appellant/cross-respondent.
Chutich, J. Concurring, Gildea, C.J.
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence that is based on
a statutory interpretation argument may be raised for the
first time on appeal.
Subdivision 1(a) of the criminal interference-with-privacy
statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.746 (2018), does not require
the State to prove that the defendant possessed the
"intent to intrude upon or interfere with" a
victim's privacy when he entered the property of another.
appeal raises two issues. First, we must determine whether a
defendant forfeits a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence that is based on a statutory interpretation argument
when he fails to raise it in the district court. We conclude
that the forfeiture rule does not apply to such a challenge.
we consider how to apply the intent element in subdivision
1(a) of Minnesota's criminal interference-with-privacy
statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.746 (2018). Specifically, we
must determine whether a criminal defendant charged with
interference with privacy under subdivision 1(a) must have a
specific "intent to intrude upon or interfere with"
the victim's privacy when he enters the property of
another, or if it is sufficient that the State prove this
intent only when he "gazes, stares, or peeps"
through the victim's window. See id. We agree
with the court of appeals that, on this question, the statute
is ambiguous. See State v. Pakhnyuk, 906 N.W.2d 571,
578 (Minn.App. 2018). We also agree that the principles of
statutory construction compel a conclusion that the specific
intent requirement applies only to the act of "gaz[ing],
star[ing], or peep[ing]" through the victim's
window. See Minn. Stat. § 609.746, subd.
1(a)(2); Pakhnyuk, 906 N.W.2d at 581. Accordingly,
we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.
2012, appellant Fedor Pakhnyuk, a resident of Chicago,
Illinois, visited Minnesota to help his brother with some
work. Pakhnyuk stayed with his brother and his family at
their home in Shakopee.
Pakhnyuk's stay, his niece had three friends over for a
sleepover. The niece was 14 years old, and her friends were
of similar age. Pakhnyuk, then age 38, had been drinking at
the house that evening, and he gave beer to the four girls.
As the evening progressed, Pakhnyuk made several crude sexual
remarks to the girls and convinced them to watch a movie
together. As they watched, Pakhnyuk sat beside one of the
friends and placed a blanket over both of their laps, reached
under the blanket, and touched the friend's inner thigh.
Offended by Pakhnyuk's advances, the girls went upstairs
to the niece's bedroom for the rest of the evening.
days later, Pakhnyuk, his niece, and one of the niece's
same friends were still staying at the house. During the
evening, the friend went to the kitchen to get some water. To
return to the niece's bedroom, she had to walk through
the living room where Pakhnyuk was sleeping on the floor. As
she passed, he stood up, hugged her, grabbed her buttocks,
and said, "Do you miss me?" She pushed Pakhnyuk
off, ran upstairs to the niece's bedroom, and locked the
girls were changing clothes in the niece's bedroom later
that evening to get ready for bed. The friend looked out the
window as she was undressing and saw Pakhnyuk sitting on the
roof outside, staring at her. When she screamed, Pakhnyuk
climbed down from the roof. Eventually, Pakhnyuk was
confronted by his brother, who contacted the authorities.
was charged with interference with privacy against a minor,
Minn. Stat. § 609.746, subd. (1)(e)(2), furnishing
alcohol to a person under the age of 21, Minn. Stat. §
340A.503, subd. 2(1) (2018), and disorderly conduct, Minn.
Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2018). Pakhnyuk pleaded not
guilty and demanded a jury trial. At trial, Pakhnyuk argued
he did not act with a specific intent to interfere with
privacy. The jury found Pakhnyuk guilty of all three charges.
appealed his conviction for interference with privacy,
arguing for the first time that the evidence was insufficient
because the language of Minnesota Statutes section 609.746,
subdivision 1(a), required the State to prove that when
Pakhnyuk entered his brother's property, he had the
specific intent "to intrude upon or interfere with"
the privacy of another person. The State contended that
Pakhnyuk forfeited his statutory interpretation argument
because he did not raise it in the district court. In the
alternative, the State asserted that subdivision 1(a) only
required it to prove that Pakhnyuk possessed the specific
intent to interfere with privacy when he peeped through his
niece's bedroom window.
of the court of appeals held that Pakhnyuk did not forfeit
his statutory interpretation argument when he failed to raise
it in the district court. Pakhnyuk, 906 N.W.2d at
575. The court then rejected Pakhnyuk's statutory
interpretation argument and affirmed his conviction, with one
judge dissenting. See id. at 581. The court of
appeals concluded that the statute was ambiguous because it
was susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation.
Id. at 578. The court relied upon an earlier version
of the statute, which the court believed showed that the
Legislature did not intend to require the specific intent to
"intrude upon, or interfere with" the privacy of
another to apply to the element of entering another's
property. See id. at 578-79. Because the Legislature
made only modest revisions when adopting the current version
of the statute, the court determined that reading the statute
to require the intent element to apply only to the act of
peeping through a window better reflected the
Legislature's intent to protect individual privacy.
Id. at 579- 81. The dissent argued, on the contrary,
that the statute was "so grievously ambiguous" that
its meaning "must be determined by the rule of
lenity." Id. at 585 (Johnson, J., dissenting).
Given that the State introduced no evidence of Pakhnyuk's
intent to intrude when he entered his brother's property,
the dissent would have reversed his conviction. Id.
petitioned for review. The State cross-petitioned for review
of the holding of the court of appeals that Pakhnyuk did not
forfeit his statutory interpretation argument when he first
raised it on appeal. We granted both petitions.
argues that the language of Minnesota Statutes section
609.746, subdivision 1(a), requires the State to prove that
when Pakhnyuk entered his brother's property, he had the
specific intent "to intrude upon or interfere with"
the privacy of another person. Asserting that the State did
not present any evidence on this element, Pakhnyuk argues
that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction
for interference with privacy. The State contends, however,
that Pakhnyuk forfeited his statutory interpretation argument
when he failed to raise it in the district court. Before
considering the merits of Pakhnyuk's statutory
interpretation argument, therefore, we must first address
whether his argument is properly before our court.
general rule, an error in the district court can be forfeited
on appeal by the failure to make a timely objection in the
district court, even when the error affects the
defendant's constitutional rights. State v.
Osborne, 715 N.W.2d 436, 441 (Minn. 2006). Whether the
forfeiture rule applies here presents a question of appellate
procedure that we review de novo. Crowley v. Meyer,
897 N.W.2d 288, 292 (Minn. 2017). Although we have applied
our forfeiture doctrine to claims of prosecutorial
misconduct, erroneous jury instructions, evidentiary rulings,
responses to jury questions, and sentencing decisions,
see Osborne, 715 N.W.2d at 441 (listing examples),
the parties have identified no case that applies the doctrine
to sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenges. We decline to
apply our forfeiture rule here for three reasons.
a key difference exists between our review of a
sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim and our review of the
issues that are generally subject to forfeiture. The issues
that we have recognized may be forfeited, see id.,
concern how guilt was proven in a particular case. A
claim that the State's evidence was insufficient to
support the conviction, however, concerns whether
guilt was proven at all. A primary purpose of the forfeiture
rule is to encourage contemporaneous objections that allow
the district court to correct problems when they occur.
See, e.g., Rairdon v. State, 557 N.W.2d
318, 323 n.5 (Minn. 1996). A defendant who challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial, however,
raises essentially the same argument on appeal that he
presented to the jury at trial: that he was not guilty of a
a defendant's challenge on appeal to the sufficiency of
the evidence, on the grounds that the statute included an
element that the State failed to prove, raises due-process
concerns. Due process requires that the State bear the burden
of proving beyond a reasonable doubt every element of a
charged offense in a criminal trial. State v.
Struzyk, 869 N.W.2d 280, 289 (Minn. 2015). When the
State prosecutes a person for violating a criminal statute,
it bears the burden of establishing that the defendant has
committed an act bringing him within the criminal statute.
See Johnson v. Florida, 391 U.S. 596, 598 (1968)
(per curiam) ("The burden . . . is on the State to prove
that an accused has committed an act bringing him within a
criminal statute."); State v. Vasko, 889 N.W.2d
551, 556 (Minn. 2017) ("[T]he meaning of a criminal
statute is intertwined with the issue of whether the State
proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated
the statute . . . .").
harsh consequences of the forfeiture rule could threaten this
due-process protection when the proper interpretation of the
language of a criminal statute is in question. If the
State's forfeiture argument prevailed, a defendant who
failed to raise his statutory interpretation argument at
trial would stand convicted of a crime-even if the defendant
were correct that the language of the statute required the
State to prove an element that was unproven in the
defendant's case. A defendant's due-process interests
are better protected by a rule that allows him to challenge
the sufficiency of the State's evidence based on a
statutory interpretation argument that is raised for the
first time on appeal.
this rule is not unfair to the State. The State contends
otherwise, asserting that it would be inequitable to permit
review here because the State is bound by the record that it
created under the "old" interpretation of the
interference-with-privacy statute. Because no appellate court
had decided the precise issue of when specific intent under
the interference-with-privacy statute must arise-when the
defendant enters the ...