This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






State of Minnesota,


Vickie Lee Quinnell,


Filed August 22, 2000


Stoneburner, Judge


Rice County District Court

File No. K59992



Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney, Jonathan C. Audette, Assistant Rice County Attorney, Rice County Courthouse, 218 NW Third Street, Faribault, MN 55021 (for appellant)


John L. Fossum, Attorney at Law, Box 840, Northfield, MN 55057 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



On appeal from the sentencing of respondent Vickie Lee Quinnell for first-degree burglary, the state argues that the district court abused its discretion in departing dispositionally downward from the presumptive executed sentence despite rejecting the recognized departure factors.  The state contends that the court impermissibly departed based on its determination that the presumptive sentence is disproportionate to the crime committed, given Quinnell’s zero criminal history score.  Because the district court has broad discretion in sentencing, and the court provided specific reasons for the departure, and because the list of factors in the statute is nonexclusive, we affirm.



The district court is afforded great discretion in imposing sentence.  State v. Spain, 590 N.W.2d 85, 88 (Minn. 1999).  This court reviews the district court’s decision to depart from the presumptive sentence for an abuse of discretion.  Id.  But the district court has no discretion to depart downward from the sentencing guidelines unless mitigating factors exist.  Id.  The record must reflect the mitigating factors justifying the district court’s departure from the presumptive sentence.  Id.  Appellate courts generally do not interfere with a district court’s decision to depart downward.  State v. Donnay, 600 N.W.2d 471, 473 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Nov. 17, 1999) (citing State v. Kindem, 313 N.W.2d 6, 7 (Minn. 1981)); See State v. Dokken, 487 N.W.2d 914, 918 (Minn. App. 1992) (noting reversal of downward departure is “drastic” action), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1992). 

The sentencing guidelines provide that:

The judge shall utilize the presumptive sentence provided in the sentencing guidelines unless the individual case involves substantial and compelling circumstances.  When such circumstances are present, the judge may depart from the presumptive sentence and stay or impose any sentence authorized by law.  When departing from the presumptive sentence, the court should pronounce a sentence which is proportional to the severity of the offense of conviction and the extent of the offender’s prior criminal history * * *.  When departing from the presumptive sentence, a judge must provide written reasons which specify the substantial and compelling nature of the circumstances, and which demonstrate why the sentence selected in the departure is more appropriate, reasonable, or equitable than the presumptive sentence.


Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.  The Guidelines also provide a non-exclusive list of mitigating factors.  Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.2.a.  When considering mitigating factors, the district court should determine whether the defendant’s conduct was significantly less serious than the conduct typically involved in committing the crime.  Spain, 590 N.W.2d at 88-89. 

            Amenability to probation is also a sufficient basis for a downward dispositional departure.  See State v. Trog, 323 N.W.2d 28, 31 (Minn. 1982) (listing factors courts may use to determine whether defendant is amenable to probation); Donnay, 600 N.W.2d at 474 (holding amenability to treatment not required to prove amenability to probation in case where defendant does not have chemical dependency problem).

The presumptive sentence for Quinnell’s first-degree-burglary offense is 48 months in prison.  The district court sentenced Quinnell to serve 48 months, and then departed dispositionally by staying the execution of the sentence for 15 years on condition that Quinnell serve six months in county jail (with work release), perform 60 days of Sentence to Service, have no further violations, obey the rules of probation and pay the fine and restitution. 

            The district court stated it could not find a “traditional basis” for departure, and described how none of the mitigating factors enumerated in the statute applied to Quinnell.  The district court found that (1) Quinnell is neither dangerous nor likely to re-offend; (2) Quinnell does not have a criminal history; and (3) the injury to the victim was minimal.  Using these mitigating factors, the district court determined that “the Sentencing Guidelines and the definitions in the statute grossly overstate the seriousness of the particular incident here.”   The district court went on to find that “there is nothing to be gained by sending [Quinnell] to prison.”  The district court implicitly found that Quinnell was particularly amenable to probation.  See State v. Heywood, 338 N.W.2d 243, 244 (Minn. 1983) (affirming downward departure in two cases, finding that, although the court was more explicit in its reliance on the particularly-amenable-to-probation factor in one case, its intent to rely on it in both cases was clear); Donnay, 600 N.W.2d at 474 (noting explicit finding of amenability to probation not required to affirm downward dispositional departure).     

             The district court provided specific reasons for its departure, and, although the mitigating factors the court found were not the factors from the guideline’s nonexclusive list, they sufficiently demonstrate why the sentence imposed in the departure is more appropriate, reasonable and equitable than the presumptive sentence.  Considering the broad discretion afforded sentencing courts, we cannot say the district court abused its discretion in finding substantial and compelling circumstances justifying dispositional departure in this case.