This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare of A.R.C.,
Stearns County District Court
File No. J50050305
Mike A. Hatch, Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1100, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, Michael J. Lieberg, Assistant Stearns County Attorney, 705 Courthouse Square, Administration Center, RM 448, St. Cloud, MN 56303-4773 (for respondents)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann E. Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (for appellant)
A.R.C. is a student at an area learning center that permits students to store their coats in a locked closet during the school day. On January 5, 2000, A.R.C. stored her winter coat in the locked closet, and a teacher retrieved it later in the day. As the teacher carried the coat from the closet, a pack of cigarettes fell from A.R.C.’s coat pocket. The school’s assistant director searched the coat for other contraband and discovered a three-inch folding knife in a pocket.
After the discovery, the assistant director called A.R.C. into his office to inform her that he found the knife and cigarettes. He asked her why she was carrying the knife, and she replied “[b]ecause you never know when you f--king need to use it, and I will stab the f--ker first if he ever tries to get me.”
The state filed a delinquency petition that charged A.R.C. with possession of a dangerous weapon on school property in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subdivision 1d(a) (2000). Following a hearing, the court found that the petition was proved and adjudicated A.R.C. delinquent. In its memorandum attached to its findings and conclusions, the district court, relying on A.R.C.’s statements, concluded that the three-inch folding knife in her possession was a “dangerous weapon” because she had intended to use the knife in a manner calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm. A.R.C. appeals from the adjudication of guilt, claiming as a matter of law that the evidence is insufficient to support the adjudication on the element of intent.
The district court found A.R.C. guilty of violating Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a) (2000), by possessing a “dangerous weapon” on school property: “Whoever possesses, stores, or keeps a dangerous weapon or uses or brandishes a replica firearm or a BB gun on school property is guilty of a felony * * * .” Minn. Stat. § 609.66, subd. 1d(a). This section incorporates the statutory definition of “dangerous weapon.” Id., subd. 1d(c) (2000). The statutory definition includes devices that “in the manner it is used or intended to be used” are calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm:
“Dangerous weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.
Id. § 609.02, subd. 6 (2000) (emphasis added).
The district court found that A.R.C. possessed the knife with the intent to use it as a weapon to produce great bodily harm. The court based its findings on A.R.C.’s explanation of why she had the knife, specifically her statement that she would “stab the f--ker first if he ever tries to get me.”
A.R.C. does not dispute that she possessed the knife or that the knife, if used to stab someone, would likely produce death or great bodily harm. Neither does she dispute that she made the statements to the assistant director explaining why she had the knife. She argues instead that her stated intent to use the knife as a weapon, when not accompanied by an act, is insufficient evidence of intent to satisfy the statutory standard.
Insofar as A.R.C. challenges the construction of the statute, she raises a question of law, subject to de novo review. Hibbing Educ. Ass’n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W. 2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985); see also State v. Basting, 572 N.W.2d 281, 282 (Minn. 1997) (whether undisputed facts establish object as a dangerous weapon is a question of law reviewed de novo). But the weight accorded to witness testimony and the inferences drawn from that testimony are issues for the district court’s determination and must stand unless clearly erroneous. See Dale v. State, 535 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1995) (reviewing record in light most favorable to fact-finder’s determination); S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d at 167 (applying same standard in juvenile proceedings).
The goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the legislature’s intent. State v. Loge, 608 N.W.2d 152, 155 (Minn. 2000). When the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, it manifests the legislative intent and we must give the statute its plain meaning. See In re J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 721 (Minn. 1998). Section 609.02, subdivision 6 defines as a dangerous weapon a device or instrumentality that “in the manner it is used or intended to be used” is likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Because the statute includes both “is used” and “intended to be used,” the plain language weighs against A.R.C.’s argument that an act is necessary for a device to qualify as a dangerous weapon. See Minn. Stat. § 645.17 (2) (2000) (legislature intends entire statute to be effective).
Consistent with the plain language, the supreme court has held that the definition of “dangerous weapon” includes a device that in the manner it is intended to be used is likely to produce death or great bodily harm. State v. Moss, 269 N.W.2d 732, 736 (Minn. 1978). Moss was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon after he robbed an undercover police officer while carrying a large pair of scissors in his purse. Id. at 735. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to infer that Moss intended to use the scissors to cause great bodily harm if their use became necessary and the evidence supporting that inference was sufficient to satisfy the element of intent under the statutory definition of “dangerous weapon”: “In this case, there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that although defendant did not use the scissors during the robbery he had them on his person and intended to use them if their use became necessary.” Id. at 736. The court rejected the argument that the statutory definition of “dangerous weapon” requires that the defendant actually use the device or instrumentality as a weapon.
This interpretation is consistent with the statute’s purpose to provide safe schools. See In re Welfare of C.R.M., 611 N.W.2d 802, 805-06 (Minn. 2000) (addressing the legislative history of the statute in the context of determining whether the student must know that he possessed the weapon in order to violate the statute). School safety is advanced by prohibiting possession of a device that is intended to be used in a manner that causes great bodily harm even, if the device is not actually used or is intended to be used only in self-defense.
Intent is generally proven circumstantially, by inference from words and actions of the actor before and after the incident. State v. Johnson, 616 N.W.2d 720, 726 (Minn. 2000). The district court properly relied on A.R.C.’s own stated purpose for having the knife as probative of her intention in possessing it. The evidence was sufficient for the district court to find that A.R.C. possessed the knife with the intent to use it, if necessary, in a manner calculated or likely to cause great bodily harm.