This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







In the Matter of the Welfare of: A.J.F., Child.


Filed February 4, 2003


Anderson, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. J80151005



John Stuart, Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)


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


John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, Michael J. Haig, Assistant County Attorney, 123 NE Fourth Street, Grand Rapids, MN  55744 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




Appellant A.J.F. challenges the district court’s order staying an adjudication of delinquency for a simulated controlled substance crime on sufficiency of the evidence grounds.  Because evidence that appellant brought a container of crushed cold medicine to school and appellant’s actions prompted other children to believe it to be a controlled substance and inhale it as if it were a controlled substance was sufficient to support the district court’s stay of appellant’s adjudication of delinquency, we affirm.



            Appellant was a twelve-year-old seventh grader when she was charged by petition with two counts of a controlled-substance crime.  On October 8, 2001, appellant’s friend, N.J., crushed an over-the-counter cold tablet medication into powder.  Appellant and N.J. put the powder into a small container normally used to hold refills of lead for mechanical pencils.  Neither appellant nor N.J. explained why N.J. crushed the pills into powder form other than to say that they thought it would be “fun.”

            The next day, October 9, 2001, appellant brought the container with the crushed powder to the Grand Rapids Middle School.  During the morning bus ride to school, A.R. who was seated across the aisle diagonally from appellant, saw appellant holding the container and overheard appellant say it was “a little bit of cocaine.”[1]  Other than A.R.’s testimony, the state produced no evidence that appellant ever told another student what the powder was or that the container held illegal drugs. 

            Appellant showed the container filled with powder to R.N. and B.B. during math class.  Appellant told R.N. that she and N.J. made the substance at home and brought it to school.  B.B. testified that appellant was secretive about the container.

            During recess, R.N., B.B., N.J., and appellant gathered outside the school.  Appellant testified that R.N. wanted to see the container.  R.N. poured the powder on a book while another student cut the powder into lines.  R.N. had a broken pen, which R.N. and N.J. took turns using to inhale the powder through the empty tube.  Although there was conflicting testimony regarding who sniffed the powder, appellant denied sniffing it.  Appellant, however, was present and aware of what R.N. was doing with the powder, but she did not supply the pen or book, and she did not cut the powder into lines.  Another student, R.E., observed the snorting activities and testified that she overheard B.B. ask appellant how much of the substance he could buy for five dollars.  When a teacher walked by, one of the children threw the book holding the powder.  Appellant retrieved the container and put it in her pocket.         

            After lunch, assistant principal Patrick Rendell and human resources officer Jacqueline Heinrich came to appellant’s class to talk to her about drugs.  Appellant denied having any but later admitted that she had lied to the assistant principal regarding her knowledge of the snorting activities stating: “I didn’t want him to think that I had any sort of drug or anything in school.”  She then went to her next class and discarded the container with the powder in the trash. 

            Later that same day, Rendell summoned appellant to his office and questioned her.  Although she initially denied involvement, appellant eventually admitted having the powder.  She led Heinrich to the wastebasket in her classroom and retrieved the container. 

            Appellant was charged with two counts of a simulated-controlled-substance crime.  Appellant moved, at the close of evidence, for a directed verdict and the district court dismissed a count charging appellant with a simulated controlled substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1(a) (2000).  After completion of the trial, the district court found appellant violated Minn. Stat. §§ 152.097, subd. 1(c) and 152.01, subd. 15a (2000).  The district court stayed appellant’s delinquency adjudication pursuant to Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 4(A), and continued the case for a period not to exceed 90 days.  See Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 7 (2000).  The district court placed appellant on probation on several conditions and this appeal of the stay of adjudication followed, pursuant to Minn. R. Juv. P. 21.03, subd. 1(A)(2). 


            On appeal from a determination that each of the elements of a delinquency petition has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, we are “limited to ascertaining whether, given the facts and legitimate inferences, a factfinder could reasonably make that determination.”  In re Welfare of S.M.J., 556 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Minn. App. 1996) (citing State v. Merrill, 274 N.W.2d 99, 111 (Minn. 1978)).  When careful scrutiny of the record creates grave doubts as to the guilt of a defendant convicted of a criminal offense, the interests of justice and the rights of the accused require that an appellate court reverse the conviction.  State v. Formo, 416 N.W.2d 162, 165 (Minn. App. 1987), review granted (Minn. Feb. 17, 1988) and appeal dismissed (Minn. Jul. 28, 1988).  We must apply the same standard of review for cases decided by a court to those decided by a jury.  State v. Cox, 278 N.W.2d 62, 65 (Minn. 1979)

[T]his court will uphold the district court’s finding if, based on the evidence contained in the record, the district court could reasonably have found defendant guilty of the crime charged.  Moreover, in making this determination the court must view the evidence in a manner most favorable to the state and assume that the district court disbelieved contradictory testimony.  


Id.(citations omitted).

            The district court found appellant guilty of a simulated-controlled-substance crime for violating Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1(c) (2000).  In pertinent part, that section states:

It is unlawful for any person knowingly to manufacture, sell, transfer or deliver or attempt to sell, transfer or deliver a noncontrolled substance upon:


            * * * *                       


            (c) Under circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the substance was a controlled substance.  Any of the following factors shall constitute relevant evidence:

            (i)  The noncontrolled substance was packaged in a manner normally used for the illegal delivery of controlled substances; or

            (ii)  The delivery or attempted delivery included an exchange of or demand for money or other valuable property as consideration for delivery of the noncontrolled substance, and the amount of the consideration was substantially in excess of the reasonable value of the noncontrolled substance; or

            (iii) The physical appearance of the noncontrolled substance is substantially identical to a specified controlled substance.


Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1(c).

            Grand Rapids police officer Brian Johnson testified that the powder appellant brought to school possessed a color and consistency similar to cocaine and methamphetamine.  He further testified that snorting through the nostrils is a common method to ingest controlled substances of this type.  The district court found Johnson’s testimony credible, and there is no evidence in the record to contradict this finding.  The powdery substance appellant brought to school satisfies the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1(c)(iii): “[t]he physical appearance of the noncontrolled substance is substantially identical to a specified controlled substance.”  See Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1(c)(iii).

            In addition to concluding appellant’s actions could lead a reasonable person to believe that the powder was a controlled substance, we must also determine whether sufficient evidence establishes appellant sold, transferred, delivered, or attempted to sell, transfer, or deliver a noncontrolled substance.  See Minn. Stat. § 152.097, subd. 1.  There was contradictory testimony regarding whether appellant handed the container to R.N. or whether R.N. acted independently in grabbing the container from appellant.  Regardless of how the parties characterized this exchange, appellant’s knowing and consensual transfer of the substance was sufficient to support an adjudication of delinquency.

            Appellant argues, however, that other children created the circumstances that led to the belief that the container held a controlled substance.  Appellant argues that no evidence exists that she gave the powder to other children or represented to them that it was an illegal drug.  Appellant contends that because she did not provide the book or the tube used to snort the powder, and did not cut the powder into lines, she did nothing to create or support the belief that the powder was a controlled substance. 

            Assuming, arguendo, that A.R.’s testimony that appellant said she had a “little bit of cocaine” was not credible, appellant never explicitly told anyone that she had a controlled substance.  However, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, there is enough evidence to conclude that appellant actively participated in creating the belief that the powder was in fact a controlled substance.  Although appellant did not actually crush the cold tablets, she did assist in putting the powder in an easy-to-conceal container that would look inconspicuous in a school setting.  Appellant consciously transported the substance to school in a small, lead-pencil-refill container.  Appellant also acted secretively in showing the container to other classmates.  In addition, although appellant did not provide the book or pen tube, or cut the powder into lines, she did observe that activity, and she was the one who provided the substance that the children eventually snorted.  Finally, appellant concealed her actions by lying to assistant principal Rendell about her knowledge of the substance and the snorting activities and later discarding the container.  Although appellant’s actions are also consistent with lawful behavior, the district court justifiably concluded that appellant knowingly provided a substance that a reasonable person could have believed was an illegal drug. 

            Appellant knew her actions might appear to others as a violation of the law; she acted as if she were breaking the law and the children she shared the substance with interpreted appellant’s actions to signify that they were snorting a controlled substance.  Because the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the state, would support an adjudication of delinquency, we affirm the district court.[2]           









[1] Defense counsel subsequently impeached A.R. by showing that A.R. may have had trouble hearing exactly what appellant said because approximately twenty children were on the bus, appellant was not talking to A.R., and A.R. was seated diagonally across the aisle from appellant.

[2]In criminal jurisprudence, much of the discussion and commentary concerning the use of stays of adjudication of guilt is associated with issues of prosecutorial discretion or the perceived absence of lack of judgment in exercising that discretion.  See, e.g., State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1993) (holding absent abuse of prosecutorial discretion, judiciary is powerless to interfere with the prosecutor’s charging authority).  In juvenile matters, of course, stays of adjudication are specifically authorized by rule.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 1(B), 4.  Because of the specific juvenile court rule, the prosecutorial discretion analysis is not necessary and, in any event, the record is wholly silent concerning any reason for the puzzling decision to prosecute this particular case.