This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the
Welfare of: M.A.M.
Filed September 9, 2003
Chisago County District Court
File No. J40250669
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, Minnesota 55103; and
Douglas H. Johnson, Washington County Attorney, 14949 – 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, Minnesota 55082; and
Katherine Johnson, Chisago County Attorney, Government Center, 313 North Main Street, Center City, Minnesota 55012 (for respondent state)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Sara L. Martin, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414 (for appellant M.A.M.)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
Appellant M.A.M. was adjudicated delinquent on one count of third-degree assault for punching another juvenile and causing him to suffer injury to six teeth. Two of the fractures affected the inner tooth structure; the other four fractures consisted of chipped teeth. The victim experienced discomfort for approximately two days. On appeal from his adjudication of delinquency, M.A.M. argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction of third-degree assault because it does not support a finding that he inflicted substantial bodily harm as required by Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (2000). Because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient for the district court to find that the victim suffered substantial bodily harm with a substantial impairment of the function of his teeth, we affirm.
Appellant M.A.M. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for a finding of his adjudication of delinquency pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260B.007, subd. 6(a) (2000), on the basis that he committed third-degree assault, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (2000). At his court trial, M.A.M. stipulated that he punched the victim in the face. The sole issue raised at trial was whether the punch constituted third-degree assault or fifth-degree assault.
When the victim was walking home from school on May 22, 2002, M.A.M. approached and punched him; the victim then fell to the ground with his nose bleeding. Although the victim suffered no broken bones in his face or nose, his teeth hurt for about two days and he had trouble eating solid foods. The victim testified that after the punch, the affected teeth were “crooked . . . not the way it would normally be.”
The dentist who treated the victim on an emergency basis testified at trial that the victim had six broken teeth, four that were chipped and two that were broken somewhat more substantially. The dentist reported his knowledge of four classifications of tooth fracture, ranging from a class-one fracture, involving the enamel only, to a class-four fracture, in which the entire tooth is broken off at the gum line. The victim had two teeth that demonstrated a class-two fracture, going through the enamel and exposing the dentin, or the inner tooth structure. The other four damaged teeth showed a class-one fracture, where only tooth enamel was chipped. Immediately after the assault, the dentist put a temporary filling on top of one tooth where more of the inner tooth was exposed. About two and one-half weeks later, he smoothed the four minor fractures and put permanent fillings on the two teeth that had the bigger breaks. The victim may require a crown or a cap in the future on one tooth that had the biggest break.
The district court found that M.A.M. had committed third-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1, finding that the victim suffered a temporary but substantial impairment of the function of his teeth, with a fracture of his teeth as “bodily members.” The case was transferred for disposition from Washington County to Chisago County, where the district court stayed a finding of delinquency for one year, ordered restitution of medical expenses, ordered the 30/15 program at Lino Lakes, but stayed it for one year, and ordered probation for one year. This appeal follows.
When challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support a delinquency adjudication, this court evaluates the record and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the conviction to determine whether the fact-finder could reasonably have concluded that the defendant was guilty of the offense charged. In re the Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997). In so doing, the court assumes that the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any conflicting testimony. State v. Thames, 599 N.W.2d 122, 126-27 (Minn. 1999). This court reviews on a de novo basis the district court’s application of a legal standard to a given set of facts in determining whether the district court erred in its application of the law. See State v. Basting, 572 N.W.2d 281, 282 (Minn. 1997) (concluding that district court misapplied proper legal standard in determining whether defendant, a professional boxer, used his fist in such a manner as to convert it into a dangerous weapon).
We first consider whether the district court erred in its interpretation of the third-degree assault statute. When statutory language is plain and unambiguous, this court must give the statute its plain meaning. In re the Welfare of J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 721 (Minn. 1998). Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1 (2000), assault in the third degree, requires an assault with the infliction of substantial bodily harm. “Substantial bodily harm” includes bodily injury causing “a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ,” or “a fracture of any bodily member.” Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 7a (2000). The term “substantial,” as used in the phrase “substantial bodily harm,” “is a term employed in common usage and legal proceedings to mean ‘considerable size or amount.’” State v. Williams, 451 N.W.2d 886, 890 (Minn. App. 1990). This court has previously defined a tooth as a “bodily member” for purposes of the assault statutes. See, e.g., State v. Bridgeforth, 357 N.W.2d 393, 394 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that having a tooth knocked out constitutes “great bodily harm” so as to satisfy statutory definition of first-degree assault), review denied (Minn. Feb. 6, 1985). Similarly, a broken tooth meets the requisite definition of “fracture of any bodily member” under Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 7a. See Webster’s Third New Int’l Dictionary 901 (1961)(defining “fracture” as “the act or process of breaking or the state of being broken : rupture by a break through the entire thickness of a material”); Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the English Language 974 (1945) (defining “fracture” as “[t]he act, mode, or result of breaking, or the state of being broken; a break; especially, the breaking, either partial or complete, of a solid body by application of force”). Therefore, we conclude that under the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 609.223, subd. 1, a broken tooth may constitute substantial bodily harm for the purpose of third-degree assault.
In this case, the evidence was uncontroverted that the victim suffered class-two fractures of two of his teeth. Since M.A.M. admitted to assaulting the victim, and teeth are bodily members under the assault statutes, the evidence supports the district court’s finding that the victim suffered substantial bodily harm, and that M.A.M. committed third-degree assault.