This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







State of Minnesota,





Faith Noelle Nelson,




Filed ­­­August 6, 2002


Harten, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. K6-99-600124



John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


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


Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, James T. Nephew, Assistant County Attorney, 100 North Fifth Avenue West, Room 501, Duluth, MN 55802-1298 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N



Appellant challenges her conviction of obstructing legal process, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction because she, due to intoxication, lacked the requisite intent and because her actions did not hinder or prevent police officers from performing their duties.  Because we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction, we affirm.



            On 5 February 1999, Duluth police officer Mike LaFontaine responded to a dispatch regarding an intoxicated woman and found appellant Faith Nelson staggering down the street.  Because of her difficulty in speaking and walking, LaFontaine believed that appellant was intoxicated and transported her to a detoxification center.  Two other officers assisted LaFontaine.

At the detoxification center, appellant refused to give her name.  Once the officers identified appellant, she left the center’s processing room yelling and screaming.  When LaFontaine put his hand on appellant’s arm to escort her back to the processing room, appellant hit LaFontaine in the eye and nose with her fist.  LaFontaine testified that the punch “hurt” and “stunned [him] for a second,” but he had no bruising from the incident. 

LaFontaine then placed appellant on the floor where he and the other officers attempted to handcuff her.  Appellant wiggled and rolled around on the floor and tried to get up.  The officers eventually had to subdue appellant with mace.  The officers then took appellant to the county jail.  Appellant was later charged with obstructing legal process and fifth-degree assault.

At her jury trial, appellant specifically waived the defense of intoxication.  She testified that she did not remember the incident, but did remember drinking at a neighbor’s house earlier that evening.  The jury found appellant guilty of both counts.  This appeal of appellant’s conviction of gross misdemeanor obstructing legal process followed.



            In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jurors to reach their verdict.  State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989).  A reviewing court must assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary.  State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).  The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.  State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).

            A person who intentionally “obstructs, resists, or interferes with a peace officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties” is guilty of obstructing legal process.  Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1 (2) (2000).  “[I]f the act was accompanied by force or violence or the threat thereof” the offense becomes a gross misdemeanor and the offender may be sentenced to up to one-year’s imprisonment.  Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 2 (2) (2000).  The jury found appellant guilty of gross misdemeanor obstructing legal process for using force or violence or the threat thereof.   

            Appellant first argues that, because of her intoxicated state, “the [prosecution] did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that [she] could form the necessary intent to obstruct legal process.”  When a “particular intent” is a necessary element of a crime, “intoxication may be taken into consideration in determining such intent or state of mind.”  Minn. Stat. § 609.075 (2000).  But appellant specifically and purposefully waived this defense at trial.  Her attorney stated, “We decided that we would waive [an intoxication] defense in this case because it was not consistent with the theory of the case.”  Because appellant waived the issue in district court, we do not consider her argument on appeal.  See State v. Botsford, 630 N.W.2d 11,16 (issues not argued at trial should not be considered on appeal), review denied (Minn. 11 Sept. 2001).

            Appellant also argues that her actions did not constitute “force or violence” as required by Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 2 (2).  She notes that she did not injure LaFontaine when she punched him and that LaFontaine testified that she “was wiggling” on the floor.  She characterizes these actions as “de minimis force.” 

            Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 2 (2), neither requires injury nor defines the words, “force or violence.”  “[T]he lack of a statutory definition for these words means that [they] have such a distinct and common usage that they require no further definition.”  State v. Diedrich, 410 N.W.2d 20, 23 (Minn. App. 1987) (quotation omitted) (interpreting “force or violence”).  In Diedrich, the court held that the jury could reasonably conclude that respondent’s pushing an officer to escape from a patrol car met the common definition of “force or violence.”  Id.   Here, LaFontaine testified that appellant punched him with her fist, that her punch “stunned him” for a second, and that he saw a flash in his eye.  LaFontaine also testified that appellant rolled around on the floor, that it took three officers to control her, and that they eventually had to mace appellant in order to handcuff her.  Another officer who was at the scene and helped to subdue appellant corroborated Lafontaine’s testimony.  We conclude that appellant’s actions were sufficient for the jury to find that appellant used “force or violence.”  

Finally, appellant argues that her acts did not substantially hinder the officers in the performance of their duties because the officers quickly subdued her and transferred her to jail.  See State v. Tomlin, 622 N.W.2d 546, 548 (Minn. 2001) (statute applies to actions which interfere with officers performing their duties).  Appellant left the detoxification center’s processing room and punched LaFontaine when he tried to return her to the room.  It then took three officers and mace to subdue appellant so that she could be transferred to jail.  Appellant’s actions prevented the officers from carrying out their original purpose, which was admitting her to the detoxification center.  Also, her actions made it more difficult for the officers to transfer her to the jail.  We have held that physical resistance to an officer substantially hindered that officer in performing her duties.  See State v. Occhino, 572 N.W.2d 316, 320-21 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. 28 Jan. 1998).  Accordingly, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that appellant substantially hindered the officers in performing their duties.[1]


[1] We have carefully considered the issues raised by appellant’s pro se brief and determined they are without merit.