This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Patrick John Shane,
Filed April 17, 2001
Nobles County District Court
File No. K697727
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, No. 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Kenneth Kohler, Nobles County Attorney, 912 Third Avenue, P.O. Box 607, Worthington, MN 56187 (for respondent)
Charles L. Hawkins, Suite 2890, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
The district court found appellant guilty of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. Claiming that one of the officers from whom he was fleeing had assaulted him on two prior occasions, appellant charges as reversible error the court’s refusal to allow him to present evidence of self-defense. Because the stipulated facts do not show a valid claim of self-defense, we affirm.
In response to criminal charges of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle and related offenses, appellant Patrick John Shane notified the state that he intended to offer evidence of self-defense. The district court granted the state’s motion in limine to preclude evidence of self-defense, ruling that such defense “is not applicable under the facts and circumstances of this case.” The parties then submitted the matter for bench trial on the following stipulated facts.
When a Jackson police officer saw Shane driving a car, he ran a license check and learned that Shane’s driving privileges had been revoked. The officer notified a Nobles County law-enforcement dispatcher who relayed the information to all on-duty officers.
Several officers, including Timothy Gaul, went to the area of the freeway on which Shane was traveling. All officers knew Shane from prior police contacts. As Shane drove past the officers, he slumped down in his seat in an apparent effort not to be seen. The officers turned on their red lights and sirens and gave chase. Shane increased his speed to as much as 120 miles per hour.
Shane eventually left the freeway, drove through a stop sign, turned onto a highway, and accelerated rapidly. The officers followed. Soon Shane turned onto a city street and then into a trailer park where he stopped abruptly. He then fled on foot. Officers identified themselves as police and called for him to stop, but he continued to run. When an officer told him to “freeze,” he stopped, and the police arrested him.
In the context of these facts, Shane offered to prove that he fled in his car and on foot because he feared Officer Gaul. He proposed to present evidence that, on two prior occasions and without any provocation, Officer Gaul assaulted him. On one occasion, Gaul allegedly punched him in the face while Shane was sitting in a bar and caused him to need 13 stitches. Another time, Shane was a passenger in a car that had been stopped by the police and Gaul, as a backup officer, took him out of the car and sprayed him in the face with a chemical agent that temporarily blinded him. Gaul allegedly refused Shane’s request to take him to a hospital. In addition to his own testimony, Shane offered to introduce photographs showing injuries that Gaul apparently had inflicted on him.
Upon stipulated facts, the district court found Shane guilty of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. Alleging as error the court’s refusal to allow self-defense evidence, Shane appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Shane contends on appeal that the district court denied his right to due process when it precluded evidence that would explain his conduct and provide him with a defense to the charge of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. We apply an abuse-of-discretion standard in reviewing claims that the exclusion of evidence resulted in a deprivation of constitutional rights. State v. Gustafson, 379 N.W.2d 81, 84 (Minn. 1985).
A criminal defendant has a right to present his version of the facts. State v. Richards, 495 N.W.2d 187, 194 (Minn. 1992) (citation omitted). That is so even if those facts do not establish a legal defense. State v. Rein, 477 N.W.2d 716, 719 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Jan. 30, 1992). But the right to present evidence which may or may not establish a defense is not unfettered for the defendant still “must comply with established rules of procedure and evidence designed to ensure both fairness and reliability in the ascertainment of guilt and innocence.” Richards, 495 N.W.2d at 195 (citation omitted). Accordingly, an accused does not have a right to present evidence that is inadmissible. State v. Widell, 530 N.W.2d 566, 570 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. May 31, 1995) (citation omitted). “Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.” Minn. R. Evid. 402. Relevant evidence is “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action” more likely or less likely. Minn. R. Evid. 401. The district court enjoys “wide discretion in determining relevance and the probative value of evidence.” State v. Boitnott, 443 N.W.2d 527, 534 (Minn. 1989).
The crime of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle is proved by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused fled in a motor vehicle from a peace officer who had signaled the accused and who was discharging a lawful duty, and that the accused knew the other to be a peace officer. Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subds. 1, 3 (2000). Shane stipulated that (1) he was driving a motor vehicle; (2) his driving privileges had been revoked; (3) the officers signaled Shane to pull over by activating their red lights and sirens; (4) Shane fled as the officers pursued; and (5) Shane knew that at least one of the pursuers was a peace officer. These were the consequential facts in the case.
Had Shane been allowed to offer evidence of his reason for fleeing, that evidence would not have made any consequential fact more likely or less likely; thus, the evidence would have been collateral. Because evidence of Shane’s reason for fleeing did not meet the test of relevance, the district court did not abuse its discretion in precluding it.
If, however, evidence of Shane’s reason for fleeing established self-defense, the court erred in excluding it. Shane relies on State v. Kutchara, 350 N.W.2d 924, 927 (Minn. 1984), in which the supreme court said:
If a defendant is free to use reasonable force to resist an offense against his person by a police officer, he also is free to flee the officer. Possibly the court should have so instructed the jury * * * .
A person may lawfully use reasonable force to defend himself against an offense being committed upon him. Minn. Stat. § 609.06(3) (2000). Self-defense is available to those who act honestly and in good faith. State v. Baker, 280 Minn. 518, 522, 160 N.W.2d 240, 242 (1968) (quotation omitted). However, it must be shown that (1) there was no aggression or provocation by the defendant; (2) the defendant actually and honestly believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm; (3) there were reasonable grounds for that belief; and (4) there was no reasonable possibility of retreat to avoid the danger. State v. Nystrom, 596 N.W.2d 256, 260 (Minn. 1999) (citation omitted).
The record shows only that Shane feared that Officer Gaul might assault him. Nothing in Shane’s offer of proof would reasonably support his belief that he was “in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.” Gaul did nothing to indicate that any particular conduct by him was imminent. Furthermore, even if we take Shane’s allegations about Gaul’s past behavior as true, Gaul never inflicted “great bodily harm” on Shane or attempted to cause his death. See Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 8 (2000) (“‘Great bodily harm’ means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.”).
The stipulated facts show uncontrovertibly that various officers from different police departments knew that Shane was driving illegally, that they signaled for him to pull over, and that they gave chase after he failed to obey the signal. Shane himself provoked the events by driving illegally and no facts suggest that the officers were doing anything more than making an effort to apprehend an illegal driver. We agree with the district court that under these circumstances Shane was not entitled to assert self-defense to a charge of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle.
Finally, even if self-defense might in unusual circumstances be an appropriate defense to a fleeing charge, as Kutchara intimates, Shane has cited no authority for the proposition that a person can resort to an illegal means to defend himself. Here, it was illegal for Shane to drive a motor vehicle. By his own admission, it was this illegal means that he chose in exercising what he allegedly thought was self-defense. We do not believe that the defense of-self-defense extends this far.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.