This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In the Matter of the Welfare of:  T. H., Child.



Filed April 3, 2001


Lansing, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. J998555365



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


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark N. Lystig, Matthew C. Brady, Assistant County Attorneys, 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102-1657 (for respondent state)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant T.H.)


            Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


On appeal from an adjudication of delinquency for theft of a motor vehicle, T.H. claims the police failed to investigate his account of the offense sufficiently and, therefore, the evidence is insufficient to support the court’s finding that the charge was proved.  Because the police are not obligated to investigate an account of events they reasonably consider to be implausible, and because the evidence in the record leaves no reasonable doubt that T.H. knew the car he was driving was stolen, we affirm.


            Between 1 and 1:30 p.m. on February 9, 2000, Shabbik Ahmed Khan parked his car in a lot near his apartment building.  At approximately 6:30 p.m., Khan discovered his car missing and reported it stolen.  The following evening, St. Paul police officers Urbanski and Burton saw T.H. driving Khan’s car.  As they activated their emergency lights and pulled behind him, Urbanski and Burton saw T.H. slow down and open the driver’s door slightly, as if he intended to jump.  Two to three seconds later, T.H. stopped.

            When Urbanski and Burton approached him, T.H. falsely identified himself as Raymond Harmon, his brother.  He was then arrested.  The officers questioned T.H.’s passenger, gave him a misdemeanor citation, and released him.  En route to police headquarters, T.H. told Burton he had gotten the car two days earlier from someone named “Jeff,” whose last name or address he did not know.  He stated that Jeff hung out at a Total gas station on Seventh and Cypress and that Jeff’s aunt lived nearby but he did not know her address.  T.H. also stated he did not know the car was stolen.

            At police headquarters, T.H. told St. Paul police officer Rudie substantially the same story.  He added that Jeff had given him a ride to a friend’s house in White Bear and then taken a bus to Maplewood Mall, after telling him he would pick up the car in one week.  When asked if he knew that the car was stolen, T.H. stated he was “kinda suspicious about it.”

            Based on the foregoing, the state filed a delinquency petition alleging one count of theft of a motor vehicle in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17) (2000), and one count of providing false information to police in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.506 (2000).  T.H. pleaded guilty to providing false information, and the district court held a trial on the theft-of-a-motor-vehicle charge.  At trial, the victim testified he had not given Jeff or anyone else permission to drive his car.  He also stated he had two sets of keys, one of which his wife had left in a diaper bag in the car’s back seat.  T.H. testified he had gotten the car from Jeff, whose last name or address he did not know, and did not think the car was stolen because Jeff had a key.

            The district court adjudicated T.H. delinquent and ordered him to complete the four- to six-month program at Boy’s Totem Town.  This appeal followed.


            The allegations of a juvenile-delinquency petition must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 13.06.  When reviewing a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, we carefully review the record to determine if the evidence, direct or circumstantial, supports the factfinder’s conclusion that the defendant committed the offense charged.  State v. Ulvinen, 313 N.W.2d 425, 428 (Minn. 1981). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the state and assume the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved contrary evidence.  Id.  Reversal or a new trial is required only if grave doubt exists as to a defendant’s guilt.  State v. Housley, 322 N.W.2d 746, 751 (Minn. 1982).

            The district court adjudicated T.H. delinquent for committing theft of a motor vehicle in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17) (2000).  To prove a charge of motor-vehicle theft, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) intentionally took or drove a motor vehicle, (2) without the owner’s consent, (3) knowing or having reason to know that the owner did not consent to the use of the motor vehicle.  Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17).

            T.H. claims the evidence is insufficient to support the adjudication of delinquency because the police (a) failed to look into his explanation of how the car came to be in his possession, (b) failed to interview the victim’s wife, (c) did not question the passenger sufficiently, and (d) did not attempt to locate Jeff.  But the police are not required to verify a defendant’s account of an offense when the account is implausible.  The police reasonably determined that T.H.’s story was implausible and warranted no further investigation.  The only question on appeal is thus whether the evidence admitted at trial leaves grave doubts on whether the petition was proved.  Viewed in the light most favorable to the state, the evidence leaves no doubt that T.H. drove the car without the owner’s consent and no reasonable doubt that he knew or had reason to know the car was stolen.

Even if the police had conducted the investigation T.H. argues was necessary, he does not suggest how any additional investigation would have raised a reasonable doubt on whether he had committed the charged offense.  Furthermore, T.H. was free to seek verification of his account of the events through his own investigation and to subpoena his passenger and the victim’s wife as witnesses at trial.  See Minn. R. Juv. P. 49.01 (directing court administrator to subpoena witnesses at request of any party).