IN COURT OF APPEALS
Peter John Jones,
Filed July 26, 2005
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Cass County District Court
File No. K8-04-1154
Earl Maus, Cass County Attorney, Christopher J. Strandlie, Assistant Cass County Attorney, Box 3000, Courthouse, 300 Minnesota Avenue, Walker, MN 56484 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch Attorney General, Angela M. Helseth, Sean R. McCarthy, Assistant Attorneys General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134 (for Amici Curiae Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.
S Y L L A B U S
O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
This is an appeal from a pretrial order dismissing the complaint charging respondent with failing to comply with the predatory-offender registration statute. The state argues that the district court erred in determining that Minn. Stat. § 243.166 (2002) is civil/regulatory and therefore unenforceable against a Native American tribal member residing on a reservation. We affirm.
Respondent Peter Jones, an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, was convicted of the felony of kidnapping. That conviction subjected him to the law requiring certain felons, denominated predatory offenders, to “register” with assigned corrections agents or specified law-enforcement agencies. Among the law’s requirements is that the offender register his current residence address.
Jones registered his address, and later, when he moved, he registered his new address. Both addresses are on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) sent to Jones several requests that he verify his residence address. He failed to do so within the time allowed by statute. A deputy sheriff assigned to investigate Jones’s whereabouts discovered that Jones was not living at the address on file with the BCA but rather was living at a different residence on the reservation.
The state charged Jones with the felonies of failing to notify the BCA of his change of address and failing to complete, sign, and return to the BCA the requisite address-verification forms.
moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that the
A Native American living on an Indian reservation was convicted of the felony of kidnapping and thereby became classified as a predatory offender subject to the requirement that he register his current address with the authorities. He failed to do so. Did the district court err in ruling that the requisite requirement is civil/regulatory and as such does not confer jurisdiction on the state courts to enforce the registration-of-address requirement?
Whether the state has jurisdiction
to enforce its laws against a Native American living on an Indian reservation
is an issue that this court reviews de novo.
State v. Busse, 644 N.W.2d 79,
A state may enforce its laws against
an enrolled tribal member on an Indian reservation only if Congress expressly
Emphasizing heightened public-policy concerns, the state argues that the registration statute is prohibitory, and, therefore, the state has jurisdiction to enforce it against Jones.
There is no bright-line test to distinguish civil from criminal laws. But the United States Supreme Court provided guidance in Cabazon, focusing on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the conduct at issue and the state’s public policy:
[I]f the intent of a state law is generally to prohibit certain conduct, it falls within Pub. L. 280’s grant of criminal jurisdiction, but if the state law generally permits the conduct at issue, subject to regulation, it must be classified as civil/regulatory and Pub. L. 280 does not authorize its enforcement on an Indian reservation. The shorthand test is whether the conduct at issue violates the State’s public policy.
In State v. Stone, the Minnesota Supreme Court made it clear that
“[i]n order for a state law to be fully applicable to a reservation under the
authority of Public Law 280, it must be a criminal law.” 572 N.W.2d 725, 729 (
In Stone, the supreme court noted that a distinction between broad
conduct and narrow conduct will be crucial if the former is generally permitted
but the latter is generally prohibited.
To apply the Cabazon test, the court in Stone
held that we must determine whether the conduct is generally permitted or
generally prohibited: “If the conduct is
generally permitted, subject to exceptions, then the law controllingthe conduct is civil/regulatory. If the conduct is generally prohibited, the
law is criminal/prohibitory.”
The conduct at issue is not the
underlying criminal act that resulted in the conviction and the registration
requirement. Rather, the conduct is the
offender’s failure to report his current residence address to state
authorities. It is beyond dispute that
people living in
In Cabazon, the Supreme Court noted that “state laws governing an
activity must be examined in detail before they can be categorized as
regulatory or prohibitory.” Cabazon, 480
Both the state and the amici curiae emphasize heightened public-policy concerns in urging that the district court’s conclusion that the statute is civil/regulatory was erroneous. The court in Stone noted that the public-policy test of Cabazon “is helpful,” pointed out that the focus is on criminal public policy, and then described criminal public policy as seeking “to protect society from serious breaches in the social fabric which threaten grave harm to persons or property.” Stone, 572 N.W.2d at 730. Undeniably, predatory crimes are serious breaches in the social fabric that clearly threaten or cause grave harm to people. But the same cannot be said of the address-registration requirement. Although address registration might have value to law enforcement in investigating and apprehending people suspected of predatory crimes, a failure to register does not itself pose a threat of grave harm to anyone, and, therefore, does not offend the state’s criminal public policy.
Among the Minnesota cases on which
the district court relied in dismissing the charges against Jones were Boutin v. LaFleur, 591 N.W.2d 711 (
Thus, again recognizing that the state has only that jurisdiction over tribal members on Indian reservations that Congress expressly grants, we find no such grant of jurisdiction to enforce the regulatory law codified as Minn. Stat. § 243.166 against Jones. The district court did not err in dismissing the charges against Jones.
D E C I S I O N
Because the purpose of Minn. Stat. § 243.166 (2002) is to aid law enforcement in investigations and because a violation of this law does not breach the state’s public criminal policy, the statute is civil/regulatory, and the state lacks jurisdiction to enforce it against a Native American living on a reservation.