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State v. Selseth

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 3, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Neil Douglas Selseth, Appellant.

          Hubbard County District Court File No. 29-CR-17-1422

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Jonathan Frieden, Hubbard County Attorney, Adam J. Licari, Assistant County Attorney, Park Rapids, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Michael McLaughlin, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Slieter, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Connolly, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When a criminal defendant pays a fine for an offense listed on the Statewide Payables List established pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 23.03, subd. 2, in an amount that results in a petty-misdemeanor conviction, that conviction may not be used to enhance a subsequent offense to a gross misdemeanor by operation of Minn. Stat. § 609.131, subd. 3 (2016).

          OPINION

          SLIETER, JUDGE

         The matter comes before this court following a stipulated-facts trial, which resulted in the district court adjudicating appellant Neil Douglas Selseth guilty of a gross-misdemeanor offense of operating a vehicle without insurance, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.797, subds. 3, 4(a) (2016). Selseth challenges the enhancement of his conviction to a gross misdemeanor based upon two prior petty-misdemeanor convictions, despite the penalty provision of Minn. Stat. § 169.797 (2016). Because Minn. Stat. § 609.131, subd. 3, precludes using an offense that was originally charged as a misdemeanor but was "treated as a petty misdemeanor" to enhance a subsequent offense to a gross misdemeanor, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         On December 12, 2017, the state charged Selseth with gross misdemeanor operating a vehicle without insurance, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.797, subds. 3, 4(a). The state relied on Selseth's two prior petty-misdemeanor convictions in 2014 and 2015 for no proof of insurance to enhance the charged offense to a gross misdemeanor.

         Selseth moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause arguing that the state could not use his prior petty misdemeanors to enhance the offense to a gross misdemeanor. The state agreed that the prior convictions were deemed petty misdemeanors but argued that Minn. Stat. § 609.13, subd. 3 (2016), rather than Minn. Stat. § 609.131 (2016) was controlling and permitted enhancement. The district court agreed with the state and denied Selseth's motion in a written order, concluding that Selseth "had two misdemeanor no insurance violations" and he paid the requisite fines "within petty misdemeanor limits, but for purposes of determining a subsequent offense they remained misdemeanors."

         This appeal follows.

         ISSUE

         May the state rely on prior petty-misdemeanor convictions to enhance a ...


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