This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







State of Minnesota,





Damion Earl McMillian,



Filed December 9, 2003


Hudson, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K5021391


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55102; and


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark Nathan Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, 50 Kellogg Boulevard West, Suite 315, St. Paul, Minnesota 55102 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lawrence Hammerling, Deputy State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Damion McMillian was convicted of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person.  McMillian argues that his conviction should be overturned because the juvenile adjudication that served as the predicate offense to enhance his firearm conviction was procedurally deficient.  Because we conclude McMillian waived this claim, we affirm the district court’s decision.


McMillian was arrested for car theft when he was 14 years old; he subsequently pleaded guilty to this offense.  At the plea hearing for this offense, McMillian’s attorney advised McMillian of the rights he was giving up and asked McMillian if he understood that he was waiving these rights; McMillian stated yes.  The court accepted McMillian’s guilty plea without further comment.

Four years later, on April 17, 2002, the police arrested McMillian for possession of a firearm.  McMillian was charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 624.713, subds. 1(b), 2, 609.11, subd. 5(b) (2002).  Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b), states that a person convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for, committing a crime of violence is ineligible to possess a firearm.  Further, Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (2002), states that the crime of theft of a motor vehicle qualifies as a crime of violence.  Therefore, McMillian’s prior juvenile offense made him an ineligible person and enhanced his crime from a gross misdemeanor to a felony charge of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. 

Before trial, respondent provided McMillian with a transcript of the prior juvenile adjudication.  McMillian’s attorney reviewed the transcript, and at trial, stated that he did not see any constitutional infirmities with the juvenile adjudication and felt the adjudication was fine.   

McMillian was convicted on August 29, 2002, and sentenced on October 23, 2002.  This appeal follows. 


McMillian’s sole argument on appeal is that the procedural safeguards at his juvenile adjudication were so deficient that the adjudication cannot be used as the predicate offense to enhance his firearm conviction.  Respondent argues that McMillian waived his right to attack the prior juvenile adjudication by failing to attack the adjudication at trial.  We agree. 

McMillian not only failed to raise the deficiencies of the juvenile adjudication at trial, his counsel conceded that the juvenile adjudication was not defective.  Indeed, after reviewing the transcript of McMillian’s juvenile hearing, McMillian’s counsel stated “I did review that transcript and Mr. McMillian was represented by counsel at the time of that plea.  And I can’t find any constitutional infirmities with that juvenile adjudication so that matter I think has been decided.  I think the prior juvenile adjudication is valid.” 

As a general rule, this court will not decide issues that were not raised before the trial court.  Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 357 (Minn. 1996).  We conclude that McMillian forfeited consideration of this issue by acknowledging “the prior juvenile adjudication is valid.” 

Although we find that McMillian forfeited appellate review of this issue, the procedural irregularities at McMillian’s juvenile adjudication are cause for concern.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 8.04, subd. 1(C), delineates specific procedures the court must follow to assure that a child understands the dispositional power of the court before accepting a juvenile’s guilty plea.[1]  While we concede that McMillian’s counsel in the juvenile proceeding sufficiently advised McMillian of the constitutional rights he chose to waive, the court neglected to follow any of its own procedural rules to confirm McMillian knew and understood the court’s dispositional powers.  We recognize that juvenile courts may not always have time to meticulously review the very detailed information in rule 8.04, subd. 1(C), with every juvenile offender.  But here, the juvenile court did nothing to assure that McMillian understood the rights he was waiving, or the impact of the adjudication upon him should he commit criminal acts in the future.

            Court rules are put in place to protect the efficacy and integrity of the court system.  This is especially important in juvenile adjudications because juveniles generally lack the capacity or sophistication to understand the process in the same way as an adult defendant.  See Minn. R. Juv. P. 1.02 (delinquency process should recognize “unique characteristics and needs of children”).  For the system to work effectively, courts must abide by their own rules; otherwise these rules mean nothing.  At oral argument, McMillian’s counsel indicated that the procedural deficiencies manifested here are not an aberration, but rather reflect an “institutional carelessness” being played out more and more frequently in juvenile courtrooms across this state.  We take no position on counsel’s systemic assessment.  Nevertheless, because of the procedural deficiencies manifested here, we urge and caution juvenile courts to carefully follow Minn. R. Juv. P. 8.04 to ensure that all juvenile guilty pleas are knowing, intelligent, and accurate.



* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Those dispositional powers include:  the court’s ability to place the juvenile in an institution, that the court’s disposition could last until the juvenile is 19, and that there could be additional serious consequences flowing from the guilty plea if the juvenile commits another offense as a juvenile or an adult.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 8.04, subd. 1(C).