This opinion will be unpublished and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

C7-01-1032

 

State of Minnesota,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Ryan Gary Fink,

Respondent.

 

Filed December 26, 2001

Reversed

Randall, Judge

 

Benton County District Court

File No. K9-01-227

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and

 

Robert J. Raupp, Benton County Attorney, Karl Schmidt, Assistant County Attorney, Courts Facility, P.O. Box 189, Foley, MN 56329 (for appellant)

 

John D. Ellenbecker, 803 West St. Germain Street, P.O. Box 1127, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1127 (for respondent)

 

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N

R. A. RANDALL, Judge

The state challenges the district court's pretrial order that dismissed its complaint. The state contends that the district court erred in finding that respondent's DWI conviction and implied-consent revocation, based on an incident that occurred in May 2000, were not qualified prior impaired-driving incidents under Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 22 (2000), and did not constitute aggravating factors under Minn. Stat.  169A.03, subd. 3 (2000). We conclude that the district court's narrow interpretation of the statute was error. Reversed.

FACTS

In February 2001, the state charged respondent Ryan Gary Fink by complaint with two counts of second-degree driving while impaired under Minn. Stat. 169A.26 (2000). The charges were based on an incident that occurred in January 2001. To charge Fink with second-degree offenses, the governing statute requires one aggravating factor to be present. Fink's driving record revealed a previous conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol and a related driver's-license revocation, based on an incident that occurred in May 2000. Accordingly, the state asserted that Fink's previous conviction and license revocation constituted the needed aggravating factors to charge Fink with second-degree offenses.

Between the time of Fink's first and second DWI incidents, the legislature repealed the previous DWI-related statutes and replaced them with chapter 169A, which became effective January 1, 2001.

Based on the statutory changes, Fink moved the district court to dismiss the complaint, asserting that neither Fink's previous DWI conviction nor license revocation constituted an aggravating factor. Specifically, Fink argued that the 2000 statutory definition for aggravating factors only refers to relevant convictions or revocations governed by the 1998 statutes. Because the 1998 statutes were amended in 1999, Fink asserted that his first DWI conviction and driver's license revocation were not governed by the 1998 statutes. The district court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The state appeals from the district court's pretrial order solely on a point of law.

D E C I S I O N

The state argues that Minnesota Statutes chapter 169A (2000) is ambiguous regarding its treatment of DWI convictions and driver's license revocations not governed by chapter 169A or the 1998 statutes. The state asserts that the district court's interpretation would lead to an absurd result and would make the entire statute uncertain and ineffective in any practical application.

Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which an appellate court reviews de novo. State v. Zacher, 504 N.W.2d 468, 470 (Minn. 1993). The objective of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the legislature's intent. Minn. Stat. 645.16 (2000). "Every law shall be construed, if possible, to give effect to all its provisions." Id. If the statutory language is unambiguous, an appellate court relies on its plain meaning, which manifests legislative intent. In Re Estate of Nordlund, 602 N.W.2d 910, 913 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Feb. 15, 2000). If the statute is ambiguous, however, an appellate court relies on the rules of statutory construction to determine and give effect to the legislature's intent. Id. A statute is ambiguous if it is reasonably susceptible to more than one meaning. State by Beaulieu v. RSJ, Inc., 552 N.W.2d 695, 701 (Minn. 1996).

In 2000, the legislature repealed the 1998 statutes governing DWI's and related license revocations and replaced them with chapter 169A. Chapter 169A took effect on January 1, 2001. One of the evident changes between the statutes is that chapter 169A defines DWI offenses in terms of degrees (i.e., first-, second-, or third-degree driving-while-impaired offenses). See Minn. Stat. 169A.25, .26, .27 (2000) (defining DWI offenses). The degree of the offense depends on whether any aggravating factors are present, and, if so, how many. Under chapter 169A, it is a crime for a person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle when the person is under the influence of alcohol or when the person's alcohol concentration at the time, or measured within two hours of driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle was .10 or more. Minn. Stat. 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5) (2000). The state may charge a person with second-degree driving while impaired if one aggravating factor is present when the person violated Minn. Stat. 169A.20. Minn. Stat. 169A.26.

Determining what constitutes an aggravating factor requires one to backtrack through Minn. Stat. 169A.03 (2000), which contains the relevant definitions for terms used in chapter 169A. An aggravating factor includes "a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the ten years immediately preceding the current offense." Minn. Stat.  169A.03, subd. 3(1). A qualified prior impaired-driving incident "includes prior impaired driving convictions and prior impaired driving-related losses of license." Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 22. A prior impaired-driving conviction includes a prior conviction under

(1) section 169A.20 (driving while impaired); 169A.31 (alcohol-related school bus or Head Start bus driving); or 360.0752 (impaired aircraft operation);

(2) section 609.21 (criminal vehicular homicide and injury, substance-related offenses), subdivision 1, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2a, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2b, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 3, clauses (2) to (6); or subdivision 4, clauses (2) to (6);

(3) Minnesota Statutes 1998, section 169.121 (driver under influence of alcohol or controlled substance); 169.1211 (alcohol-related driving by commercial vehicle drivers); or 169.129 (aggravated DWI-related provisions; penalty);

(4) Minnesota Statutes 1996, section 84.91, subdivision 1, paragraph (a) (operating snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle while impaired); or 86B.331, subdivision 1, paragraph (a) (operating motorboat while impaired); or

(5) an ordinance from this state, or a statute or ordinance from another state, in conformity with any provision listed in clause (1), (2), (3), or (4).

 

Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 20. A prior impaired-driving-related loss of license includes

(1) section 169A.31 (alcohol-related school bus or Head Start bus driving); 169A.50 to 169A.53 (implied consent law); 169A.54 (impaired driving convictions and adjudications; administrative penalties); 171.04 (persons not eligible for drivers' licenses); 171.14 (cancellations); 171.16 (court may recommend suspension); 171.165 (commercial driver's license, disqualification); 171.17 (revocation); or 171.18 (suspension); because of an alcohol-related incident;

(2) section 609.21 (criminal vehicular homicide and injury, substance-related offenses), subdivision 1, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2a, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 2b, clauses (2) to (6); subdivision 3, clauses (2) to (6); or subdivision 4, clauses (2) to (6);

(3) Minnesota Statutes 1998, section 169.121 (driver under influence of alcohol or controlled substance); 169.1211 (alcohol-related driving by commercial vehicle drivers); or 169.123 (chemical tests for intoxication); or

(4) an ordinance from this state, or a statute or ordinance from another state, in conformity with any provision listed in clause (1), (2), or (3).

 

Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 21.

In this case, the focus is on chapter 169A's reference to the 1998 statutes in its definitions for prior impaired-driving convictions and prior impaired driving-related losses of license. Because these definitions specifically refer to the 1998 statutes, the district court determined that Fink's DWI conviction and license revocation from the May 2000 incident had to be governed by Minn. Stat.  169.121, 169.123 (1998) to qualify as aggravating factors under chapter 169A. The court reasoned that Fink's first conviction and license revocation did not fall under the 1998 statutes and therefore did not qualify as aggravating factors under chapter 169A because the legislature amended certain provisions of the 1998 statutes in 1999. We conclude the district court failed to recognize that the legislature's 1999 amendments did not address the relevant statutory provisions that governed Fink's first DWI conviction and license revocation.

A. Prior Convictions

According to chapter 169A, an aggravating factor includes a prior conviction under Minn. Stat.  169.121 (1998). Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 20(3). If a person was convicted of a DWI under the 1998 statute, the person must have been found guilty of the statute's charging provision, which is Minn. Stat. 169.121, subd. 1. The legislature did not change the statute's charging provision in 1999. Instead, the legislature made minor changes to the statute's conditional-release provision (subdivision 1c), criminal-penalties-and-enhancement provision (subdivision 3), and mandatory-penalties-for-gross-misdemeanors provision (subdivision 3d). 1999 Minn. Laws ch. 194, 1-3. None of these provisions affects the statute's charging provision.

Fink's first DWI conviction would be defined by the charging provision of the DWI statute. Because subdivision one of the 1998 statute remained unchanged by the legislature in 1999, Fink's May 2000 incident would have been charged under subdivision one of the 1998 statute. Therefore, Fink's first DWI conviction does qualify as a prior impaired-driving conviction. Thus, it can serve as an aggravating factor, under chapter 169A.

B. Prior License Revocations

According to chapter 169A, an aggravating factor includes a prior license revocation under Minn. Stat. 169.123 (1998). Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 21(3). Under the 1998 statute, a driver's license must be revoked for 90 days if the person submits to a test and the test results reveal an alcohol concentration of .10 or more. Minn. Stat. 169.123, subd. 4(e)(1) (1998).[1] The legislature's 1999 amendments did not change this provision. Instead, the legislature only made minor changes to the statute's provision defining a peace officer (subdivision 1) and the provision regarding petition for judicial review (subdivision 5c). 1999 Minn. Laws chs. 124 1, 231 166.

Because the 1999 amendments did not change the pertinent provision under which Fink's driver's license was revoked, Fink's May 2000 license revocation was governed by the 1998 statute. Therefore, like Fink's first DWI conviction, his license revocation qualifies as a prior impaired-driving-related loss of license, and thus an aggravating factor under chapter 169A.

Based on the legislature's 1999 amendments, the controlling statutory provisions from the 1998 statutes remained unchanged and govern Fink's first DWI conviction and license revocation. The district court erred by finding that Fink's first DWI conviction and license revocation did not qualify as aggravating factors under chapter 169A.

Looking beyond the narrow issue in this case, the state has also raised concerns about chapter 169A's treatment of DWI convictions and driver's license revocations that are governed by pre-1998 statutes. Chapter 169A states that an aggravating factor includes "a qualified prior impaired driving incident within the ten years immediately preceding the current offense." Minn. Stat. 169A.03, subd. 3(1) (emphasis added). Further, chapter 169A's mandatory penalties provision lists specific sentences for persons who are convicted of driving while impaired within ten years of a qualified prior impaired-driving incident. Minn. Stat.  169A.275, subd. 1-4 (2000). The state argues that the term "ten years" is essentially rendered meaningless if pre-1998 DWI convictions and license revocations cannot be considered.

We agree with the state's argument and conclude that the statutory language is ambiguous. Thus, to determine the legislature's intent we look to the following statutory presumptions:

(1) The legislature does not intend a result that is absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable;

(2) The legislature intends the entire statute to be effective and certain;

(3) The legislature does not intend to violate the constitution of the United States or of this state;

(4) When a court of last resort has construed the language of a law, the legislature in subsequent laws on the same subject matter intends the same construction to be placed upon such language; and

(5) The legislature intends to favor the public interest as against any private interest.

 

Minn. Stat. 645.17 (2000).

Based on these presumptions, we find the legislature did not intend to exclude qualified prior impaired-driving incidents that were not committed under the 1998 statutes as aggravating factors under the new statute. That interpretation would lead to such a narrow and constrained result that the statute would be, for practical purposes, ineffective and uncertain. This is especially so since other statutory provisions under the chapter, such as 169A.03, subd. 3, and  169A.275, subd. 1-4, refer to offenses that occurred ten years before the charged offense. It would be inconsistent to define aggravating factors by a ten-year time frame and to delineate mandatory penalties for convictions that occurred within ten years of a qualified prior impaired-driving incident if the courts considered only offenses defined by the 1998 statute or the 2000 replacement statute.

Reversed.



[1] The current version of this provision is Minn. Stat. 169A.52, subd. 4 (2000).